Abstract

Great Power gunboat diplomacy brought a host of problems to Japan’s shores. The initial Kanagawa Treaty of 1854 was innocuous enough, merely allowing foreign ships to call at specified ports for supplies, but the commercial treaties hammered out by Townsend Harris and employed by other Western nations were another matter. These “unequal” treaties created disputes over property, jurisdictions, trade methods, and more than anything else, money. Indeed, financial conflict was to be a defining feature of Japan’s forced opening (kaikoku). In the historical narrative of early modern Japan, these conflicts have often been condensed into a single event: the Yokohama Gold Rush. The gold rush has been portrayed as the exploitation of a small, peace-loving Asian nation by the rapacious, imperialist West. A more nuanced, global look, however, tells a different story, a story of calculated arbitrage, inter-related exchange, diplomatic failure, and hyperinflation, which culminates in revolution and regime change.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8050
Print ISSN
1045-6007
Pages
pp. 281-301
Launched on MUSE
2016-08-03
Open Access
No
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