John D’Amico

John is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History. He specializes in the social and economic history of Tokugawa Japan (1600-1868). His dissertation project is about the role of merchants and their money in the 18th and 19th century. In particular, it focuses on the Nakai Genzaemon merchant house, a wealthy and powerful firm that at its peak founded over 20 stores across the Japanese archipelago. Their archive of nearly 30,000 documents offers a unique window onto the complex interactions between commerce, merchant capital, and society in the late Tokugawa period, covering everything from finance, trade, and governance to disputes with local gangsters, reports on local society, and the get-rich-quick schemes of disgruntled employees. The project seeks to situate Tokugawa merchant capitalists within the business, economic, and social history of the early modern world and, in doing so, reframe our understanding of economic and social change in Tokugawa Japan from the bottom up.

Outside of his current research, John is interested in local document preservation and post-disaster recovery in Japan. He has worked with the Miyagi Shiryō Network on the restoration and use of historical documents damaged by the 3/11 triple disaster, and has presented on local history in Japan.

Raised in Beverly, Massachusetts, John earned a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University. After college, he worked in the tech industry in Seattle before winning a Fulbright fellowship to study at Tōhoku University in Sendai, Japan for a year. He is also the recipient of a Japan Foundation fellowship for dissertation research in Japan.

Doctoral student