Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Amassing economies: The medieval origins of early modern Japan, 1450–1700
by Goldsmith, Brian, Ph.D., Stanford University, 2008, 294; 3332989
Abstract (Summary)

The Japanese economy expanded rapidly during the course of the seventeenth century, as indicated by the near doubling of the population and globally unprecedented levels of urbanization on the archipelago. Some of the economic growth was undoubtedly the result of a "peace dividend" following the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868). The ability of the early Tokugawa economy to expand so rapidly, however, bespeaks on-going growth and a large, well-developed economic infrastructure.

Taking the position that late medieval institutions (1450-1600) created the infrastructure necessary for early Edo period society (1600-1700), this thesis argues that the extensive economic development of the hinterlands of Japan was a prerequisite for, and not a consequence of, unification and growth in the seventeenth century. This development was most pronounced in the trade-based economy that expanded steadily throughout the medieval period (1180-1600). But commerce remained more-or-less beyond the control of feudal authorities.

One of the critical developments in the transitional period from 1450 to 1680 was the emergence of political instruments that feudal authorities could use to dominate the burgeoning economy. In the agrarian domain, this was most visible in the cadastral surveys taken in the years leading up to and following unification. While these surveys were a momentous achievement, equally important were similar developments underway in the commercial economy. These included the erection of a physical infrastructure of domination, including checkpoints along roads and in harbors, and the extension of lordly controls over the social infrastructure of trade, primarily over key segments of the merchant community.

Commerce played an underappreciated role in the emergence of early modern Japan. Since the late Classical period (1050-1180) the produce of land had been the object of governance and taxation through the manor (shōen ) system. With a few notable exceptions in the region of the capital, the trade-based economy had remained beyond the reach of elites. During the late medieval period, military aristocrats experimented with new ways of harnessing the economy, particularly commerce which remained free of competing demands by existing powers. Feudal authorities' claims to tax trade goods circulating in the transportation network during the late medieval period broaden incrementally into new powers. Feudal lords eventually used such inroads to make claims on the enforcement of justice and control over artisanal production. Such authority was the harbinger of the territorially exclusive jurisdictional claims of feudal elites in the early modern domain (han). The overall trend was one of increasing growth, increasing density in economic networks, and increasing attempts by feudal authorities to more fully harness all sectors of the economy. In many ways, feudal authorities were crafting the early modern world from medieval fiefdoms through their participation in a robust well-integrated archipelago-wide economy whose rudiments had been in the making for the preceding two hundred years.

To explore this topic, this thesis uses a locally produced textile from Echigo in northern Japan, as well as other trade items (including ceramics and coinage), to outline local, regional, and inter-regional economic and political structures across the archipelago. While this dissertation takes a local case study of Echigo as the base point of analysis, it uses interconnections fostered by commerce to explore the construction and role of archipelago-wide administrative organizations and trade networks in the early modern transformation.

Indexing (document details)
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: History, Economic history
Keywords: Cloth, Economic, History, Japan, Medieval, Niigata
Publication Number: 3332989
ISBN: 978-0-549-85115-8
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