a1 University of Stirling
The legacy of the Portuguese Jesuits and Spanish mendicant orders in Japan in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was strongly felt both in Japan and in the Catholic Church. In Japan the alien religion had been suppressed in the early Edo period and throughout the decades of sakoku measures continued to be taken to ensure that Christianity would not re-emerge. In Europe, however, the determination of Christian missionaries to return to Japan persisted. Already in the seventeenth century, after the expulsion of the Iberian missionaries and at a time when the French Société des Missions Etrangères (established in 1658) had been granted by the papacy the exclusive right of missionary work in the Far East, on two occasions bishops of the Société were appointed Apostolic Vicars to Japan—even though, needless to say, they never set foot in the country. Throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Japan remained little more than a distant memory of the past and a distant hope for the future. Following the French Revolution, the end of the Napoleonic wars, the onset of the Bourbon Restoration and with increasing French naval activity in the Far East, however, the Société's interest in Japan revived.