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Episode 17 - Sunrise: The Dawn of the Empire of Japan

Uploaded: 30 May 2018

In the exciting climax to our mini series looking at imperialism in Eastern Asia, Japan is torn apart by a vicious civil war that pits the Shogunate against the Samurai.

Tensions had built ever since the Americans had arrived and forced the Shogunate to submit to trade. 

In the capital Edo, the connections with Europe had led to the opening of trading posts, the establishment of churches and even Western-oriented schools where hip Japanese sent their children to learn about fashionable European culture. 

Add to this another fact - the relative peace that had reigned since the Tokugawa Shogunate had taken control in 1603 had led to a gradual subsidence of the traditional class system – a subsidence that had only been accelerated by the country’s “opening”. The daimyo and samurai were noble warriors by birth but essentially without purpose, while traders and entrepreneurs slowly but surely began to accumulate more wealth than many of the supposedly powerful.

With western merchants prancing around Edo like it was their own New York, many samurai had simply had enough. The resulting war was by no means an accident – some clans had been modernising their armies for years – others had been planning their revenge since 1603. 

It’s difficult to say whether anything the Shogunate did in the 1860s really could have prevented their demise. Regardless, in 1869, the new Empire of Japan was proclaimed from the new capital Tokyo.

The final defeat of the Tokugawa Shogunate - then the Ezo Republic - at the hands of the new Imperial navy in 1869

Further sources: (also visit footnotesofhistory.com/12 and footnotesofhistory.com/15​​​​​​​)

R. Bickers, The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914​​​​​​​

J. Lovell, The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China​​​​​​​https://amzn.to/2HNwdJv​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​E. Ringmar, Liberal Barbarism (Cultural Sociology)

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