Sarah Thal

I am a historian of early modern and modern Japan with particular interest in the interplay of religious, social, and political dynamics. My research and teaching interests include: Shinto, kami worship, and Japanese religion; the Meiji Restoration; samurai and bushido; local and place-based history; the modernization of the Japanese aristocracy; natural resources and the environment; and historical research methods. My current work examines the ways in which the eighteenth-century work on samurai ethics, Hagakure, has been reinterpreted over the centuries, not only as an exemplar of Japanese wartime propaganda but also as an ideal of masculinity, business management, loyalty, and spirituality.


  • PhD - Columbia University
  • MA - Columbia University
  • BA - SOAS, University of London
  • BSc - Georgetown 


Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a Pilgrimage Site in Japan, 1573-1912 (University of Chicago Press, 2005).  View Book Details

Selected Publications:

  • “Redefining the Gods: Politics and Survival in the Creation of Modern Kami,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, vol. 29, nos. 3-4 (Fall 2002): 379-404.

History Courses:

  • History 104 - Introduction to East Asian History: Japan
  • History 200 - Film, Literature and the Japanese Past
  • History 201 - Historian’s Craft: Conspiracy Theories: Evidence and Argument
  • History 454 - Samurai: History and Image Historical Internship Seminar
  • History 600 - Religion and Politics in Japan
  • History 600 - Samurai in America
  • History 855 - Samurai and Bushido
  • History 855 - Early Modern Japan
  • History 855 - Shinto and Politics in Japan

Sarah Thal

Associate Professor


4117 Mosse Humanities

4026 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours: