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Journal of World History 11.2 (2000) 394-396

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Book Review

Edo and Paris: Urban Life and the State in the Early Modern Era

Edo and Paris: Urban Life and the State in the Early Modern Era. Edited by JAMES L. MCCLAIN, JOHN M. MERRIMAN, and UGAWA KAORU. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997. Pp. xxv + 483. $23.95 (paper).

Well-conceived and assembled edited volumes of a comparative nature that deal with two or more continents are few and far between. With this in mind, I am glad that Cornell University Press has decided to publish the edited work Edo and Paris in paperback. On the whole, editors James McClain, John Merriman, and Ugawa Kaoru have done an excellent job formulating a fascinating study which traces the growth and development of Edo [present day Tokyo] and Paris after these cities became the administrative capitals of their respective countries under the near absolutist regimes of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Bourbon kings. Although this work is not without flaws, the vast majority of the articles contained within Edo and Paris are informative, well-researched, and lucidly written studies which go a long way to improving our understanding of political authority, culture, [End Page 394] and urban growth in Edo and Paris during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

The initial area of inquiry--the focus of nine submissions, under the subsections of Governance, Space, and Provisioning--is "the city from above." Here, the authors look at the way in which state authority and power shaped the development of both cities. From this perspective, Kata¯o Takashi, William Beik, and Sharon Kettering provide a detailed though isolated overview of the governance of both cities. Moreover, under the subsection on urban space, William Coaldrake does a fascinating job reconstructing the Taikokuin Mausoleum built by the Third Shogun, Iemitsu, which served both to memorialize his father and to legitimate his power. Finally, Steven Kaplan and Hayashi Reiko's articles deserve attention for they both discuss an aspect of rule that is often overlooked: provisioning or, in other words, keeping the people fed. Indeed, both authors examine food crises that hit Edo and Paris in the 1730s and 1740s and discuss the governmental institutions created to supply the capital with food so as to avert social unrest.

While many of the essays which examine state authority are, for the most part, historical studies from the top down, the editors balance such articles by incorporating several studies which look at society from the bottom up as well. Indeed, the second area of inquiry--nine submissions under the subsections of Culture and Resistance--revolves around "the city from below." As one would expect, these studies privilege the position of "commoners," or more specifically merchants and artisans, and discuss how these individuals shaped both the urban "experience" and development in Edo and Paris. I feel that two of these articles, in particular, will greatly appeal to scholars interested in urban and social history. The first is James McClain's study on how Edobashi, a section of the Edo earmarked as a firebreak by the Shogunate, was slowly transformed by merchants and artisans into a vibrant commercial district that would eventually influence the overall culture of Edo. Furthermore, William Kelly's study suggests that the transformation of Edo fire brigades, from elite Samurai-led organizations into ones run by commoners, provides a microscopic example that reflects the overall transformation of Edo from a politically dominated administrative capital into an urban center whose development was increasingly influenced by commoners and their interests.

As one might gather from such praise, I found nearly every contribution to this volume informative, interesting, and of the highest standard. While most edited collections are uneven at best, such is not the case with Edo and Paris. Indeed, the editors have done a wonderful [End Page 395] job formulating a study which will appeal to scholars and students of both Japanese and French history alike. Moreover, the incorporation of numerous maps, charts, figures, and illustrations...