Prof. Leonard Blussé has created a new academic field, broad in its chronological and geographical scope, "the maritime history of early modern East/Southeast Asia", establishing an interdisciplinary approach as a foundation for historical studies. His studies began from Sinology, then some elements of Japanese Studies were added, before embracing the maritime history of East Asia with his studies about Overseas Chinese, and have now expanded to include maritime history of Southeast Asia. In the currently popular trend of 'global history' in historical studies, his approach is highly regarded as providing an ideal framework for 'global history' based on empirical 'micro' analysis without ever losing the 'macro' conceptual perspective.
Prof. Blussé was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1946. In 1965 he entered Leiden University and studied Sinology. After conducting research in various places including The Institute for Research for the Humanities at Kyoto University, Japan (1972 - 75), since 1975 he has been based at Leiden University as researcher and teacher, and gave lectures on such subjects as 'History of the relationship between Asia and Europe' and 'History of Southeast Asia' until 2011.
Prof. Blussé's research is founded on what might be called the Leiden school of historical studies, which is built on the thorough examination of documentary material. His particular forte as a historian is his ability to make good use of such texts as the vast number of surviving records of the trading activities of The Dutch East India Company (VOC) between the ports of Batavia (modern Jakarta), Canton (modern Guangzhou) and Nagasaki in the 17th - 18th Centuries. The other distinctive feature of his research is his strong interests in the people who lived in that era, and his method of bringing them to life through individual biographical case studies. The best example is Strange Company (1986), published being based on his doctoral thesis: one of the chapters was translated into Japanese and published in 1988 under the title, Tomboy Cornelia's Battle: the Life of a Dutch-Japanese Lady in 17th century Batavia. This tells the life story of a Dutch-Japanese woman in the VOC's base at Batavia, against the background of a vivid description of the multi-ethnic city and its diverse population, and especially the complications and conflicts between eastern and western cultures.
Prof. Blussé subsequently produced a large number of works which provide a foundation for empirical historical studies, with such publications as the 13 volumes of The Deshima Diaries (1640 - 1800) (1986-2010). Meanwhile he also worked on books about the maritime history of early modern East/Southeast Asia from a comprehensive global perspective. In Visible Cities (2008), based on his Edwin O. Reischauer Memorial Lecture given at Harvard University, he compares three port cities, each with deep connections to the VOC: Batavia, Canton and Nagasaki. In this book he discusses the effect of the arrival and the expansion of Europe and the US in East/Southeast Asia in the early modern and modern periods, and describes local reactions, and the independent character of local commerce, as reflected in the activities of Overseas Chinese.
At Leiden University, many scholars from Asia, including Japan, have benefited from Prof. Blussé's teaching, and many of them now have successful careers as historians. In this respect, too, he had played an instrumental role as a bridge connecting Asia and Europe.
Thus in light of Prof. Leonard Blussé's remarkable achievements, he is very much worthy of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.