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HIST 218 - Lecture: Meiji Restoration (Jan. 30)

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HIST 218
Gavin Walker

The Meiji Restoration (Jan 30) − 1868: beginnings of establishment of modern Japan − beginning of central government; unity in nation, language, culture, etc − beginning of Western influence, particularly through unequal treaty system − first time an East Asia state looked specifically to Western states, to examine how they were formed, and what lessons may be extracted − how to exit the crisis of late Tokugawa feudalism? − domainal and regional conflict, weakening central Tokugawa household, large samurai class, rising rate and intensity of peasant uprisings, growing power of merchant class in Osaka Late Tokugawa Economy − growth of merchant class − traditionally considered low in status, beneath peasantry − samurai are not land-owners; paid a stipend − this means the samurai are dependent on the rise harvest done by peasantry − they end up being 'squeezed from both ends': − local landlords, while are incentivized to build up defences against intrusions from central Tokugawa state, attempt to cut costs, usually from samurai stipends − this forces samurai to borrow from merchants, which puts them further into debt, as well as lose their future stipends/earnings to the merchant class − through repetition of this process, merchants eventually accumulate a large amount of wealth, even becoming de facto land owners − at the same time, the peasants are also indebted to the merchant class − the end result is that the merchants begin taking on increased social power by the late Tokugawa − samurai marriages into merchant families: combination of bureaucratic-military power with merchant financial power − contrast to tradition, which frowned severely on 'marrying below' − now, it was a win-win: samurai receives wealth, merchants receive status − unity in military and financial power − similar to Qing China, most elites did not have an interest in Western products, although merchants were very much interested − this gave another card to the hand of the merchant: they were well- prepared for the opening of Japan that was to come − Tokugawa reform movements: central movements for consolidation of Tokugawa control in Edo, Osaka, Kyoto in 1841 − took on different dimensions: − taxation: fear that domainal lords were keeping too much rice revenue for themselves − could lead to new situation of multiple sites and poles of power in Japan, which could resist Tokugawa − apparatus of control (alternate residence; spy network) over domainal activities weakening (see Satsuma connection with Chinese trade via Ryukyu) − regional differences to reform: central domains resist processes of rationalization, outer domains (Satsuma and Choshu) succeed in own reforms − power of Satsuma meant Tokugawa could not enforce the central reforms on them − integration of lower samurai into upper peasantry in Satsuma − this meant that there was no class of agitating, poor, disgruntled samurai class; Satsuma society was thus fairly stable − remote anti-Tokugawa tradition − Satsuma links to Ryukyu kingdom − external trade links to Wing − connections to imperial household in Kyoto − Emperor kept out of political life by Tokugawa − because of the sense that Tokugawa was losing political power and in decline, there was a desire by prominent han lords to form ties with the imperial household − everyone knew that to wield political power in a post- Tokugawa world, they would need the aegis
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