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The Effectiveness Of Feudalism As An Economic System In Japan

1924 words - 8 pages

This investigation will attempt to examine the effectiveness of feudalism as an economic system. It is relevant as it examines a form of governing and its impact on the economic status of a country. This allows it to be decided whether or not it was successful, and therefore if it is relevant to use in the modern world and what consequences might follow. Specifically, it will be focusing on feudal society from the Kamakura Period, starting in 1185 CE, to the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, ending in 1615 CE, within Japan. The issues that will be addressed are how feudalism affected the economic prosperity of the Japanese people, and how it affected Japan’s productivity and advancement. This will be accomplished by examining a variety of secondary sources, such as William E. Deal’s Handbook to Life in Medieval & Early Modern Japan and Conrad Shirokauer’s A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations.

Summary of Evidence

In Japanese history, the period of time that is considered medieval is referred to as staring with the beginning of the Kamakura Shogunate period in 1185 CE, and ending with the Azuchi-Momoyama Period in 1615 CE. During this time period, Japan was ruled in a militaristic-style fashion by a progression of warrior-clan families, with each family known as a shogunate, or bakufu, in a system commonly referred to as feudalism. Feudalism, specifically, is “a social system… in which people worked and fought for nobles who gave them protection and the use of land in return.” In Japan, these nobles were the warrior-class known as bushi. Bushi brought about many changes such as creating and bringing about new markets, standardizing weights and measures, and possibly introducing the use of currency (coins). Also, “villagers were permitted to administer their own affairs even more completely than they had been wont to do, only in order that they would thereby be induced to submit all the more readily to the general policy planned for the whole of the productive classes of the nation.” That is, the ruling-warrior-class let them enjoy smaller freedoms, as to follow along with the larger projects of the country. The areas of land that these warrior-rulers controlled were known as daimyo. By the 14th and 15th century, many daimyo began to want to have the goods produced within them (specifically the new markets) to represent their status. These eventually developed into market towns. As these towns grew larger guilds, known as za, began to form in order to protect the privileges and rights of their members. The za were usually protected and supported by either some religious institution or a part of the government (or bakufu) and benefitted mostly those who were either a part of them or protected them, including even the shogunate, by bringing in more income for those specific people. The guilds created monopolies on many products, including salt, oil, rice, and wood, which created special benefits for its members only. ...

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