In Tokugawa Japan, large merchant houses stood at the nexus of a vast web of social relations. In a society often described as rife with barriers and local distinctions, large merchant operations worked within and between a dizzying array of jurisdictions and variations in local social structure. Merchants not only navigated this difficult social geography, but also transformed it. Binding together village elites, prominent townspeople, and samurai authorities on one hand, and laborers, shophands, and gangsters on the other, powerful merchant families organized people in new relations based on trade, lending, contract, and investment. Focusing on the Nakai Genzaemon family, who ran a network of some twenty stores throughout the Japanese archipelago at their peak, this project presents us with a new vision of Tokugawa society as one deeply ordered not just by samurai authority, status, or by local self-government, but by commercial networks.
John is a second-year PhD student. He works on the social and economic history of Tokugawa Japan, with a particular interest in the relationship between merchant capital and society. His recent research has focused on topics ranging from land redevelopment after famine in northeast Japan to changes in the urban social order of Kyoto in the 19th century.
This event is part of the Yale Environmental History Spring 2019 Graduate Student Workshop Series.
To attend and request a copy of the pre-circulated chapter manuscript, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.