Constraining the samurai

Rebellion and taxation in early modern Japan

Abbey Steele, Christopher Paik, Seiki Tanaka

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    On the eve of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the nearly 300 semi-autonomous domains across Japan had widely varying tax rates. Some handed over 70 percent of their rice yield to the samurai ruler of the domain, while others provided 15 percent. This variation existed in spite of the similar fiscal demands that the domain rulers faced within the Tokugawa regime-the feudal system that governed Japan between 1603 and 1868. This period was remarkably stable; Japan saw no foreign or domestic wars. This allows us to focus on the impact of pressure from below on taxation. We study the extent to which peasant-led rebellions and collective desertion ("flight") lowered the subsequent tax rate imposed by samurai rulers. Using newly compiled data on different types of peasant-led political mobilization-from petitions to insurrections-we find an association between, on the one hand, large-scale rebellions and flight and, on the other, lower tax rates. We interpret the results as evidence of rebellious or mobile peasants' ability to constrain their rulers; the more complacent fail to win concessions. Our findings suggest that peasant mobilization played a role in restricting state growth in early modern Japan through tax concessions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)352-370
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
    Volume61
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

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    taxation
    peasant
    taxes
    Japan
    concession
    flight
    mobilization
    desertion
    petition
    restoration
    regime
    ability
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    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations

    Cite this

    Constraining the samurai : Rebellion and taxation in early modern Japan. / Steele, Abbey; Paik, Christopher; Tanaka, Seiki.

    In: International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 2, 01.06.2017, p. 352-370.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Steele, Abbey ; Paik, Christopher ; Tanaka, Seiki. / Constraining the samurai : Rebellion and taxation in early modern Japan. In: International Studies Quarterly. 2017 ; Vol. 61, No. 2. pp. 352-370.
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