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Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa…
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Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan

by Stephen Vlastos

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This academic study reads as a revised version of a PhD dissertation. Focusing on the Fukushima Prefecture in northern Honshu (the main island), Vlastos analyzes the number and causes of peasant protests and uprisings across the Tokugawa era (1600 - 1867). He also provides a more detailed description of a handful of specific protests to illustrate how protest worked and to reinforce his conclusions. Vlastos finds that early in the period, farmers usually protested collectively against heavy tax burdens; often, the ringleaders were executed but the communities were given modest and temporary relief. Later in the period, as production (of rice, silk, and other products) began to transform to compete in a market economy, unrest more often reflected conflict between small and middling farmers on the one hand, and local large farmer-landowner-moneylenders on the other. Vlastos mostly rejects James C. Scott's thesis, in The Moral Economy of the Peasant, that unrest reflected peasants' desire, when threatened by market risk, to restore traditional social relationships that at least guaranteed a subsistence income. Vlastos doesn't have a theory to substitute in its place, but he does make the case that, at least in the region he studied, peasants were not trying to return to a historical condition, but simply to choose a different present, unencumbered by debt and massive inequalities of wealth on the village level. ( )
  bezoar44 | Dec 12, 2010 |
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