B – Economy, trade, and finances

Japan and global trends in finance, industry, and communication: Late 19th century perspectives

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 14:00 – 16:00

    Sunday, 28 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    B – Economy, trade, and finances
Convenor
  • Steven Ericson (Dartmouth College)
Chair
  • Catherine Phipps (University of Memphis)
Commentator
  • Catherine Phipps (University of Memphis)
Panelists
  • Mark Metzler (University of Washington)
  • Steven Bryan (Independent Scholar)
  • Janet Hunter (London School of Economics)
  • Martha Chaiklin (Independent Scholar)
  • Timothy Yang (University of Georgia)
  • Steven Ericson (Dartmouth College)

Papers

  • Mark Metzler
    1883–1884: The Correlation of Global Crises

    1883–1884: The Correlation of Global Crises

    The late nineteenth century is now widely understood as an age of globalization, the culmination of conjoined revolutions in trade, transportation, and international finance. It was also an era of globalized economic crises, most of which have been relatively little explored in their international dimensions. One of these crises, that of 1883–1884, has not even been recognized as constituting a single global crisis, owing to its disaggregated and peripheral geography, its staggered timing, and its specific sectoral incidence. As part of a larger study of the period, this paper surveys some aspects of that crisis as it played out across widely scattered reaches of Asia, including Japan, as well as Africa and the Americas. In many places, the crisis of 1883–1884 was the most significant of the era, making it comparable to the better-known crises of 1873, 1890, and 1893. Precisely because several features of those other crises were absent, it reveals basic dynamics of the new globalization in a new light. When one correlates its results, it also appears in many places as the terminal crisis of the mid-century liberal order.
  • Steven Bryan
    Integrating into the Late Nineteenth-Century World: Japan, Argentina, and Russia

    Integrating into the Late Nineteenth-Century World: Japan, Argentina, and Russia

    During the late nineteenth century, a series of states newly formed or reformed earlier in the nineteenth century sought to carve out a place in the globalized world. Each strove to develop institutions and infrastructure necessary for global political and economic influence, though the individual balance of resources and needs varied to reflect domestic factors. This paper looks at how Japan, Argentina, and Russia finessed this issue. In all these countries, preferences for technical forms of European modernization—industrialization, mechanized militarization, internationalized financial institutions—co-existed with domestic priorities and histories. Japan sought economic development and military power through technology and foreign funding. Argentina sought to industrialize as well but in an economy dominated by land and agricultural exports where the balance of interests was more even. Russia sought economic development and military power but, like Argentina, was abundant in land. In Russia, though, the sheer breadth of the land mass—and the unsuitability of agriculture in large regions—meant that utilizing land required building railroads and infrastructure to support military and industrial power rather than promoting agricultural exports. In all three countries, international finance and national currency policy served as tools to pursue these different but linked developmental goals—all aimed self-consciously at aggressively entering the late nineteenth-century world and shaping its development.
  • Janet Hunter
    Japan in the Global Information Revolution of the Nineteenth Century: Strategy and Reputation in the Development of the Postal System

    Japan in the Global Information Revolution of the Nineteenth Century: Strategy and Reputation in the Development of the Postal System

    The nineteenth century witnessed a global information revolution. Post, telegraph, and telephone systems were crucial to the increasing connectivity within and between countries. This presentation seeks to locate Meiji Japan in the context of increasing domestic and international information flows, focusing in particular on the postal system. The nature of postal systems varied between countries, as did the extent of their use, but by the second half of the nineteenth century most industrializing economies had switched to uniform rate systems operated under government monopoly. This model was also introduced in Japan in the early 1870s. This paper argues that the organization, operation, and use of the postal system was integral to Japan’s nineteenth-century globalization. It was an important tool for integrating the Japanese themselves into the national project for “modernization,” industrialization, and globalization. It was a means of integrating the country into the international economy and a tool for strategic advantage and international influence. For some, both inside and outside Japan, it was also viewed as an indicator of the country’s level of “civilization.”
  • Martha Chaiklin
    Japanese Feathers on the World Market in the Late 19th Century

    Japanese Feathers on the World Market in the Late 19th Century

    In the last decades of the nineteenth century, women who paid attention to Western fashion were consuming large amounts of feathers, especially on fans and hats. Some of these feathers could be farmed, like ostrich and peacock feathers, but many were caught in the wild. After Japan was forced to participate in the emerging global market through commercial treaties with the Western powers, sudden competition with factory-produced Western goods rocked the domestic economy. Many goods were developed specifically for export in order to retain bullion, including porcelain, ivory statuettes, and cloisonne designed to Western tastes. Feathers and feather products, which did not require a high skill level, quickly were developed to participate in this market. Not only were raw feathers from birds like pelicans and albatrosses provided for Western milliners, but feather fans, not traditional in Japan, became a major export. This paper looks at the emergence of this Japanese feather trade and its effects, both ecological and economic, through newspapers, magazines, and government documents. It casts new light on the importance to Japan’s domestic economy and foreign trade of the entrepreneurs who used avian raw materials to produce finished consumer goods and developed their industry without government support.
  • Timothy Yang
    Patent Medicine in Japan and Global Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

    Patent Medicine in Japan and Global Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

    In the late nineteenth century, Japan’s leading intellectual, Fukuzawa Yukichi, attempted to influence what kind of medicine the public consumed. He targeted patent medicines, many of which were traditional home remedies with apocryphal origins dating back hundreds of years. To him, patent medicines were not panaceas as promised, but rather unscientific placebos that duped the public at best and poisoned it at worst. To his dismay, these drugs only increased in popularity during modern times with the growth of print media and advertising. Fukuzawa argued for a nationwide stamp tax on patent medicines to discourage their sale and to help fund the establishment of a modern public health system, which was put into place in 1882. In response, patent medicine vendors sued Fukuzawa for slander, countering that a tax on patent medicines was an attack on the health of rural society because patent medicines provided essential medical care where doctors were scarce. Although the stamp tax lasted from 1882 to 1926, patent medicines remained popular, and their overall sales actually increased. My presentation examines one of the main targets of Fukuzawa’s critique: the patent medicine industry of Toyama Prefecture, known for its "use first, pay later," door-to-door system of peddling medicine. Toyama’s medicine merchants found success in catering to rural regions where modern medical care was costly and scarce. By the early twentieth century, they also found profitable markets abroad, particularly on the Asian continent. I examine the social and political implications of Toyama’s patent medicine industry as a local counterpoint to the development of a modern pharmaceutical industry that drew on global, scientific trends.
  • Steven Ericson
    Western “Money Doctors” in Meiji Japan: Foreign Employees in the Finance Ministry

    Western “Money Doctors” in Meiji Japan: Foreign Employees in the Finance Ministry

    The Japanese government employed hundreds of foreign experts in the late nineteenth century to help in its drive to modernize Japan. The Ministry of Finance had as many as two dozen Western advisers and technicians on its payroll in the 1870s when it was dealing with the painful consequences of its integration into the global economy, ranging from chronic trade deficits and outflows of specie to rapid currency depreciation and runaway inflation. British, American, and French nationals were particularly active in the Banking and Taxation Bureaus and the Mint; Germans and Italians, in the Currency Bureau. These foreign employees (oyatoi gaikokujin) played a role as financial consultants that to some extent prefigured that of “money doctors,” the international financial advisers who emerged in the twentieth century, that Marc Flandreau and others have examined. This paper investigates the contributions these Western specialists made to Japan’s nation-building efforts in finance-related fields. Britisher Alexander Shand, who advised on banking matters in the mid-1870s and taught hundreds of future Japanese experts in the Finance Ministry’s in-house school, is fairly well known, but hardly familiar are other employees such as the American George Williams, adviser on taxation and overseas bond issuance from 1871 to 1876, and the German Alexander von Siebold, hired by the ministry in 1875 as a translator and consultant on tariff issues. To what extent did these hired hands shape Japanese monetary and fiscal policies, and to what degree did Finance Ministry officials disregard or modify their advice, as the emphasis of Japanese financial thought and practice shifted from Anglo-French economic liberalism in the 1870s to German-style economic nationalism in the 1880s.

Abstract

This double panel presents new research on Japan’s relation to global developments in finance and business, industrialization, and information flows in the late nineteenth century. As Japan modernized after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and sought equality with the Western powers, it became increasingly integrated into the world economy and the international circulation of ideas and practices. This process led Japanese government and private interests to embrace and adapt new approaches to development, but connectivity also exposed Japan to global financial crisis and provoked resistance by traditional industries. The papers in the first panel set the table with broad international and comparative views. Mark Metzler examines the understudied global financial crisis of 1883-1884, which engulfed Japan and other parts of Asia as well as Africa and the Americas. He shows that, for many of these areas, this crisis exerted greater impact than better-known shocks in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and that examination of its features throws new light on the dynamics of this era of globalization. He further argues that correlating the crisis of 1883-1884 with political trends reveals that it was, in many places, the “terminal crisis of the mid-century liberal order.” Steven Bryan compares Japan with Argentina and Russia as newly formed or reformed states in the late nineteenth century that strove to develop institutions and infrastructure they needed to establish global influence. He highlights the difference among these three states in developmental strategies whereby domestic resources and histories shaped their adoption of European forms of modernization. In particular, the relative extent to which land dominated the domestic economy caused Japan to diverge from Argentina and Russia in its approach to industrial and military development. Janet Hunter looks at the global information revolution of the nineteenth century and its impact on Meiji Japan. In particular, the Japanese government imported the model that most industrializing countries adopted for their postal systems in the second half of that century. Japan’s postal regime became a significant tool for integrating both the nation into the world economy and its people into the nation-building project at home. The papers in the second panel offer further case studies in Japan’s global interactions. Martha Chaiklin treads new ground in exploring Japanese exports of feathers and feather products designed for Western tastes in fashion after the forced opening of Japan to foreign trade in 1859. She traces the emergence of this industry and its ecological and economic effects and underscores its importance in linking Japan to global markets. Timothy Yang provides a counterexample to Japan’s assimilation of global practices by showing the continued popularity of traditional patent medicines sold door to door by local merchants well into the modern era.  Boosted by the development of oversea markets in Asia after the turn of the century, the patent medicine business continued to thrive despite the growth of Japan’s modern, science-based pharmaceutical industry. Steven Ericson looks at the ways in which European and American experts hired by Japan’s Finance Ministry in the early Meiji period contributed to Japan’s adoption of Western financial institutions and methods. He suggests that, in their consulting work, these specialists prefigured the so-called money doctors, international financial advisers who emerged in the twentieth century, as the foreign employees helped Japanese finance officials deal with problems attending their nation’s integration into the global economy. Catherine Phipps, who is currently writing a global history of Japan, will serve as panel chair and discussant.