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In Search of the WayThought and Religion in Early—Modern Japan, 1582-1860$
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Richard Bowring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.001.0001

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From Ienari to Iemochi

From Ienari to Iemochi

Chapter:
(p.233) 15 From Ienari to Iemochi
Source:
In Search of the Way
Author(s):

Richard Bowring

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.003.0015

This introductory chapter to Part III provides the historical background to the period 1786–1860. The dominant figure at the outset was Matsudaira Sadanobu, who did what he could to effect serious economic reforms but failed because the root cause, samurai indebtedness and a continued belief that agrarianism was central while mercantilism was suspect, was never faced up to. In the end he was chiefly known for the deleterious effect of his conservative policies. There were periods of famine and social unrest, while in the background lay the increasingly worrying advance of Russia to the east and pressure from other Western powers to open up the country to trade and commerce. National defence was neglected and the gut response was to ignore rather than face the problem. The account ends on purpose in 1860 rather than 1868 to avoid the suggestion that the Meji Restoration was inevitable.

Keywords:   Kansei reforms, Matsudaira Sadanobu, Russian threat, British threat, Hokusai, Franz von Siebold

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