井の中の蛙

9/17/2005

Who’s On Top?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:44 am

This came across the H-Japan wires, and I was intrigued by both the project itself and the immense time-wasting potential of listmaking, so I wrote to Ms. Kim and got some clarifications, and now I’m ready to putter furiously….

From: “Linda J. Kim” [l_jkim at yahoo dot com]
Dear Japanese History Professors,

As some of you may know, I am a graduate student researching Japanese elites during the 19th century (and eventually the 20th century). I am requesting nominations of who you think belong in this top ten list of influential political leaders [from her e-mail: "We are using C. Wright Mill's concept of the power elite, which comprises corporate, miitary, and political leaders"; I may go ahead and throw in a cultural figure or two, if they had substantial influence] during the periods of:

  • 1840-1860
  • 1860-1880
  • 1880-1900
  • 1900-1920

I recognize these are crude time periods and some of you may be experts in Tokugawa versus Meiji Japan, or there may be overlapping leaders across time periods. That’s okay. I would be grateful if you can fill in any of the periods that you are familiar with. Of course, I’d be happy to share the results with all interested parties.

Sincerely,

Linda Kim
University of California, Riverside
Department of Sociology
Institute for Research on World-Systems

Here’s my nominations, mostly off the top of my head. If I was a really good blogger, I’d include links with all these names to something like their wikipedia entries, but I’ve blown enough of a Friday on this already, and none of these folks is obscure.

  • 1840-1860: Well, part of the problem in this era is the lack of coherent leadership. There’s the short-lived Shogunal leadership (Ii Naosuke, Abe Masahiro), and the rising mid-level elites (Okubo, Saigo). Aside from that, I’m not sure who I’d really pick as outstanding. Yoshida Shoin?
  • 1860-1880: Although this violates the normal 1868 boundary, the rising stars of the Bakumatsu cover this ground pretty well. Okubo Toshimichi, Saigo Takamori and Kido Takayoshi, of course are all leading figures and all die just before the end of this period. I’d probably include Fukuzawa Yukichi due to the influence of his writing and cultural leadership. A conventional list would probably include Shibusawa Eiichi as an economic leader, too, though perhaps his heyday is later? Iwakura Tomomi. Other names would come from the second-tier Bakumatsu/Meiji leadership: Okuma Shigenobu, Ito Hirobumi, Itagaki Taisuke, Mutsu Munemitsu. The eternal debate: to include the Emperor or not?
  • 1880-1900: This is, perhaps, the most stable of these eras, even though it crosses the Constitutional divide. Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo and the Meiji Emperor have to top the list. Okuma Shigenobu gets high marks as an opposition rabble-rouser. Mori Arinori, Matsukata Masayoshi, Inoue Kaoru, Saigo Tsugumichi. There ought to be a business leader or two in here, but those names never stuck with me very well.
  • 1900-1920: Yamagata Aritomo and Matsukata Masayoshi; Saionji Kinmochi, Hara Takashi and Katsura Taro. I think Ito Hirobumi should make the top ten, even though he dies half-way through, but it depends on who else is near the top. Culturally speaking, Natsume Soseki. Nogi Maresuke is popular and makes an impact when he dies, but is he a top-ten leader? What am I missing here?

Obviously, the floor is open for discussion. (and later I will allow myself the luxury of looking at a textbook to see what I missed) This is part of a World History project including “US, Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and China” so almost everyone gets to play!

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