The Demography of Sociopolitical Conflict in Japan, 1721-1846

The Demography of Sociopolitical Conflict in Japan, 1721-1846

The Demography of Sociopolitical Conflict in Japan, 1721-1846

The Demography of Sociopolitical Conflict in Japan, 1721-1846

Excerpt

The relationship between population and conflict has occupied both scholars and public officials since time immemorial. Teeming masses, climbing birthrates, floods of migrants, food supplies insufficient for the mouths they must feed, and high concentrations of rambunctious young males have seemed in many times and places to foreshadow conflict, either domestic or international. But factors behind these "shadows" have seldom been deeply penetrated by observers, and the implications drawn from systematic, scholarly studies have been in many ways mutually contradictory.

It is not my purpose to clarify all the implications for human conflict of demographic states and changes, but merely to examine a few aspects of the topic in such a way that modest generalization may be possible. Specifically, I wish here to disaggregate the topic of population and examine the relationships of its several dimensions to social conflict and political protest in one preindustrial agrarian society: Japan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, under the rule of the Tokugawa shōguns. The dimensions of population that I shall examine are absolute size, density, pressure (on the food supply), distribution, and crisis (resulting from natural calamity), and changes in all of these. Conflict will also be disaggregated; my focus is on conflict internal to Japanese society only and, within that society, on the contentious behavior of the common people in Japan's 73 provinces. This behavior includes legal petition and litigation directed at other commoners or at the authorities; social conflict between individual commoners or between groups of . . .

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