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A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the by Andrew Gordon

By Andrew Gordon

A chinese language asserting has it that "each step adjustments the mountain." Likewise, every one significant flip in background adjustments how we comprehend what went earlier than: as Japan now maintains in an monetary funk that yet didn't wipe out the "economic miracle" of the postwar interval, we have to reconsider our histories once more to provide an explanation for the origins of prosperity, the evolution of what it skill to be jap, and the roots of obstinacy. Gordon's clearheaded, readable, and inquisitive narrative, geared toward scholars and critical normal readers, accomplishes this job molto con brio. Head of Harvard's Reischauer Institute of eastern reports, Gordon tells a sweeping and provocative tale of Japan's political, financial, social, and cultural innovations of its modernity in evolving foreign contexts, incorporating within viewpoints and debates. past choosing the nationwide levels (feudalism, militarism, democracy), the writer innovatively emphasizes how exertions unions, cultural figures, and teams in society (especially ladies) were affected through the years and feature replied. prompt either for common libraries and for professional collections.

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Overall, by 1700, roughly 5 or 6 percent of Japanese people lived in cities with populations greater than 100,000. Europe at this time was less than half as urban by this measure; only 2 percent of Europeans lived in cities of this size. If we define cities to include smaller places, the extent of urbanization is equally impressive. By 1700 about 10 percent of the people of Japan, or about three million people, lived in towns or cities of over 10,000 inhabitants. Edo, with its million souls, was the largest city in the world.

Their military skills have disappeared, and . . 8 The city merchants were little happier. The shogun and leading daimyo¯ had the political clout to simply repudiate their debts. They did this with fair regularity. Mer­ chants had little recourse but to swallow the loss and issue new loans. Of equal concern, upstart rural producers were competing effectively with the officially certified urban purveyors of goods and services. One 1789 complaint comes from the city of Okayama, a castle town with about twenty thousand commoners and a sharply de­ clining population: Commerce in this city has steadily declined and many small merchants find themselves in great difficulty.

In essence, these traders created a rice-futures market. In exchange for cash in advance, a daimyo¯ would issue a promissory note pledging expected tax rice to a merchant banker. These notes could be bought and sold at prices that would fluctuate in anticipation of the value of the harvested rice. In this increasingly complex and productive economy, the cities were the magnets for commerce, and the towns, roads, and seaways were the nodes and arteries of economic life. The villages, in turn, provided most of the raw materials that were consumed and processed.

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