Economic Particularities of Japan's Meiji Period Term Paper

Pages: 14 (4357 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Economic Particularities of Japan's Meiji Period And The Industrial Revolution In Great Britain

The person we are today is the result of numerous interactions with different individuals and events that have affected our lives, combined also with the unique characteristics of our own selves. The same can easily be said about our contemporaneous society, which is the result of millennia of historical events. Two such events that played pivotal roles in the formation of our currently globalizing economy are the reign of Emperor Meiji in Japan, between 1867 and 1912, and the Industrial Revolution commenced in Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century and soon expanded onto all civilized countries.

The Meiji Era represented a time of prosperity and major changes for the nineteenth century Japan. It was the time that opened the Asian country to the rest of the world - a time responsible for both prosperity, but also important dissatisfactions and riots. The Industrial Revolution emerged in Great Britain to eventually expand to the rest of the world. It also represented times of major changes and advancements so important that life changed for good. One could easily say that the two are similar in that they set the basis of the modern world. But are they similar in light of the economic changes that occurred?

The specialized literature is filled with factual data and personal opinions on both periods in international history. The increased emphasis placed on both time periods can easily be explained by the role played by the reforms and developments in those times and their implications on the world and economy we know today. In other words, the Meiji period and the Industrial Revolutions are pivotal components which set the basis of the contemporaneous society.

2. The Meiji Period

The Meiji Restoration has aroused immense controversy among both Japanese and Western historians during the twentieth century: controversy over the objectives of the Meiji leaders, the degree of 'success' or 'failure', and the nature and degree of changes initiated by the Meiji government. No disagreement exists, however, that the Meiji Restoration is the key to our understanding of modern Japanese history."

The Meiji period began on the 23rd of October 1867 when sixteen years old Mutsuhito was enthroned as emperor of Japan. Due to the promises made and the high hopes for e better life, the period was called Meiji, meaning the enlightened rule, and it has been on numerous occasions stated that it represented Japan's transition to the modern economy and society.

The historical period was set on the basis on an enclosed economy which had limited relations with other countries. Prior to the Meiji Restoration, Japan was producing internally all of their necessary subsidies and had engaged in trade operations with only four partners, to eliminate three of them and eventually only trade with the Netherlands. The country was being subjected to the stern regulations of the shoguns, which basically controlled all state and individual operations. But the fall of the Tokugawa shoguns and the crowing of the new emperor increased the Asian country's communications and collaborations with the western powers and ended as such the shogunate's monopoly.

A primary act of the young's emperor was to move the country's capital from the shoguns' "place of rule" in Kyoto, to Tokyo. Internal disputes emerged and were fought by proclaimers and opponents of the new emperor, his new instituted regime and the formation of the new government. It was not rare for the targets of the "terrorist" attacks to be the representatives of the western countries who were present in Japan to enforce international relationships with the country. Meiji however severely punished the rebels.

Other major ideas that sat at the basis of Meiji's ruling regarded the need for a centralized control system, rather that the power being divided between numerous forces. This was required for the country to become culturally, politically and economically equal to the great powers of the west, objectives clearly established and stated by the emperor. Then, the centralization of the power was also necessary for the creation of a strong state which suffered limited foreign intervention into their personal agenda. In other words, the emperor desired to avoid any possibility that foreign forces would take control of Japan.

Changes in the military structures were also obvious, and this particular sector was among the first to adopt western organizational structures. The military forces in Japan were a pathfinder in hiring specialized foreign consultancy to aid them better organize their operations and improve their technologies. These actions set the basis for future cooperation and stimulated other sectors, such as shipping, munitions and mining, to request specialized foreign consultancy. The navy was constructed after the British model. Furthermore, the Japanese government sent numerous students abroad to inoculate them with the western way of thinking and expertise in all economic, political and technological sectors.

A major social effect of Meiji's crowning and the fall of the shogunate (which eliminated the social hierarchies) was revealed by the large numbers of shoguns (nearly half a million) who were now unemployed. Most of these former shoguns were employed in the navy, the construction of ships or the multitude of other emerging industries. Problems occurred within the financial sector as well, but were solved starting with 1873 with the introduction of taxes.

From 1871 to 1873, Meiji oligarchs went abroad to study the West - the Iwakura Mission. They examined technology, banking systems, political systems, infrastructures, educational systems, zoos and agricultural techniques and considered what would work in Japan and what would not. [...] Universities were founded and an educational system created, influenced in part by what was discovered in the United States and Prussia. [...] Japan adopted a police system and a legal system modeled roughly from what they found in France."

The Meiji Era was also prosperous from the political stand point, as it generated the first Japanese constitution. After years of studying the western constitutions at the basis of state functioning, Japan's officials established the country's constitution in 1889. It was "modelled on a political theory of a German, Lorenz von Stein, who held that a monarchy existed to arbitrate between groups with competing interests, to prevent the exploitation of the weak by the strong. The Meiji constitution left the emperor as the arbiter of the will of all Japanese. There was to be no division of powers as with constitutions in the West. There was to be a parliament - the Diet - elected by men eligible to vote based on property qualification, but the Diet had no power other than to express grievances or to work on technical details regarding budgetary or security issues - all of which was subject to approval by the emperor. A governmental cabinet, working with the Diet but not responsible to it, was to have no power to initiate legislation or to deny the Meiji government money. In keeping with his godly status, the emperor was subject to no checks on his power."

3. The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution encompasses a wide series of advancements which basically led to the replacement of human labor with mechanized work. It emerged in Great Britain to soon be felt throughout the entire world. As with the Meiji Era, the Industrial Revolution is a major time in history that set the course for the creation of the contemporaneous society and economy.

The developments in the nineteenth century are improperly organized under the term of revolution, moreover when the revolution implies a sudden action. And the changes in Great Britain were not sudden, but had been generated and expected for years. Therefore, the Industrial Revolution was not a revolution in the sense of unexpected occurrence, but it was a revolution in the sense of the major effects it generated - and this is the stand point from where it must be analyzed.

Similarly to the case of Japan and its Meiji Era, the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain was set on a complex background, already tormented by the need for change. Also, it emerged during the approximately same time period and was welcomed and believed to generate numerous beneficial results. It emerged in the insular country to eventually expand onto the entire European continent and also the United States of America.

But however the implications of the modifications generated by the British Industrial Revolution were extremely important, they do not have the same gravity as the changes brought about by the Meiji period, which entirely restructured the country and its population. In this particular sense, the industrialization of Great Britain impacted the British society as it encouraged the migration from rural to urban areas. Then, the women's role changed once again and the introduction of mechanized work sent them back household activities. The women that worked outside the household were basically found in the textile industry.

Another major difference resides in the approach of education. Whereas the Meiji Era placed increased emphasis on creating scholarly institutions, the Industrial Revolution had… [END OF PREVIEW]

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