Proposal preview

Societal response to climate variation; Institution, market and social change in early modern and modern Japan

Recent progress in paleoclimate reconstruction has enabled us to understand past changes in air temperature and precipitation in annual or finer time resolutions for the last several thousand years. It has not only made it possible for us to study more closely the relationships between climate variation and Malthusian checks, such as famines and wars, but created excellent opportunities for linking the data to the more general understanding of socio-economic structure and change. In Japan, we can utilize various kinds of socio-economic data across the country in the early modern and modern periods, so the combined analysis of climate and socio-economic data could offer regional variations and their relationships with other regions.
In this session, we offer five papers mainly dealing with Japan, and discuss them in comparative perspective by inviting experts on comparative institutional analysis, England, China and India. The first paper briefly introduces recent progress in paleoclimatology, and the following four papers elucidate how socioeconomic structure in Japan reacted to short- and long-term variations in climate. Case studies include 1) adjustments by market function, 2) implementation of land tax payment system, 3) disaster-induced changes in social order, and 4) comparison between macro-economic and climatic impacts on welfare. By investigating institutional, market and social responses to climate change, we will demonstrate that since the early modern period, societies in and around Japan responded to climate variation in diverse ways and in some respects quite successfully, but with important limits and leading to social change, especially in the periphery, by the nineteenth century.

Organizer(s)

  • Yasuo Takatsuki Kobe University yasuo.takatsuki@gmail.com Japan
  • Jean-Pascal Bassino The University of Lyon jean-pascal.bassino@ens-lyon.fr France
  • Kaoru Sugihara The Research Institute for Humanity and Nature sugiharak83@gmail.com Japan
  • Takeshi Nakatsuka The Research Institute for Humanity and Nature nakatsuka@chikyu.ac.jp Japan

Session members

  • Kaoru Kamatani, Ritsumeikan University
  • Masahiko Shibamoto, Kobe University

Discussant(s)

  • Bruce M Campbell The Queen's University of Belfast b.m.campbell@qub.ac.uk
  • Tirthankar Roy The London School of Economics and Political Science T.Roy@lse.ac.uk
  • Kenneth Pomeranz The University of Chicago kpomeranz1@uchicago.edu
  • Tetsuji Okazaki The University of Tokyo okazaki@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Papers

Panel abstract

Recent progress in paleoclimate reconstruction has enabled us to understand past changes in air temperature and precipitation in annual or finer time resolutions for the last several thousand years. In Japan, we can utilize various kinds of socio-economic data across the country in the early modern and modern periods, so the combined analysis of climate and socio-economic data could offer regional variations and their relationships with other regions. In this session, we offer four papers mainly dealing with Japan, and discuss them in comparative perspective by inviting experts on comparative institutional analysis, England, China and India. By investigating institutional, market and social responses to climate change, we will demonstrate that since the early modern period, societies in and around Japan responded to climate variation in diverse ways and in some respects quite successfully, but with important limits and leading to social change, especially in the periphery, by the nineteenth century.

1st half

New perspectives in historical studies provided by high-resolution paleoclimate data

Takeshi Nakatsuka

Reconstructions of past climate variations in annual or finer resolutions for the past several thousand years using various kind of proxies, such as tree-ring, coral-ring, stalagmite, ice cores, marine and lake sediments, and old diaries, has made a great progress, largely in response to IPCC activities. Although those data are first utilized for global environmental studies, it can help us to understand human histories, too. In this paper, I will introduce recent advancements of the ‘high resolution paleoclimatology’ in and around Japan and survey the apparent relationships between climate variations and societal reactions during last 3000 years, with special emphasis on early modern and modern Japan where we can obtain numerous socio-economic data across the country. By comparing the newly established paleoclimate data, mainly from tree-ring isotopic studies, with the historical weather database obtained from contemporary diaries, we can ensure the accuracy of the past climate reconstructions. Early modern and...

Reconstructions of past climate variations in annual or finer resolutions for the past several thousand years using various kind of proxies, such as tree-ring, coral-ring, stalagmite, ice cores, marine and lake sediments, and old diaries, has made a great progress, largely in response to IPCC activities. Although those data are first utilized for global environmental studies, it can help us to understand human histories, too. In this paper, I will introduce recent advancements of the ‘high resolution paleoclimatology’ in and around Japan and survey the apparent relationships between climate variations and societal reactions during last 3000 years, with special emphasis on early modern and modern Japan where we can obtain numerous socio-economic data across the country. By comparing the newly established paleoclimate data, mainly from tree-ring isotopic studies, with the historical weather database obtained from contemporary diaries, we can ensure the accuracy of the past climate reconstructions. Early modern and modern Japan since 17th century provides an excellent opportunity for the study of societal response to climate variation.

Climate change and the development of the land tax system in early modern Japan

kaoru Kamatani

In Tokugawa Japan feudal lords secured a supply of rice (or its equivalent in cash) from peasant farmers under the land tax system with detailed and diverse methods of calculation. A close examination of the contents of the ‘land tax quota notifications’ (menjo), the notice for the payment of the land tax, shows that the total tax amount, the tax ratio and the tax assessment in terms of the volume of rice (measured in koku) varied in accordance with environmental changes such as natural disasters. A large number of examples of the land tax quota notification exist in many parts of Japan. However, research has generally been limited to changes in land tax amounts and procedures. This paper, principally based on data from the Kinki and Northern Kanto regions, conducts an analysis on the relationship between climate change and the land tax data. It will show that tax systems were...

In Tokugawa Japan feudal lords secured a supply of rice (or its equivalent in cash) from peasant farmers under the land tax system with detailed and diverse methods of calculation. A close examination of the contents of the ‘land tax quota notifications’ (menjo), the notice for the payment of the land tax, shows that the total tax amount, the tax ratio and the tax assessment in terms of the volume of rice (measured in koku) varied in accordance with environmental changes such as natural disasters. A large number of examples of the land tax quota notification exist in many parts of Japan. However, research has generally been limited to changes in land tax amounts and procedures. This paper, principally based on data from the Kinki and Northern Kanto regions, conducts an analysis on the relationship between climate change and the land tax data. It will show that tax systems were applied by making markedly sensitive responses to climate change and disasters.

Climate changes and market economy: the case of early modern Japan

Masahiko Shibamoto and Yasuo Takatsuki

An agricultural economy with little impact of trade and no clear population change --- this is the characteristics of the market economy of Japan from 18th century to mid-19th century. Taking such features as given, economic historians have tried to explain economic growth of early modern economy focusing on supply-side, rather than the demand-side, factors such as technological change in agriculture and greater supplies of labor. In this paper we extend previous historical research by incorporating up-to-date high-resolution paleoclimate data --- air temperature and precipitation in annual. These data allow us (1) to check the relationships between climate change and grain price (rice, soybean, and wheat) and (2) to check the price smoothing function of the grain market. Fortunately, we have long time-series data of grain prices. Using them as a proxy for harvest, we show the relationship between climate change and harvest. We suggest that the grain market in...

An agricultural economy with little impact of trade and no clear population change --- this is the characteristics of the market economy of Japan from 18th century to mid-19th century. Taking such features as given, economic historians have tried to explain economic growth of early modern economy focusing on supply-side, rather than the demand-side, factors such as technological change in agriculture and greater supplies of labor. In this paper we extend previous historical research by incorporating up-to-date high-resolution paleoclimate data --- air temperature and precipitation in annual. These data allow us (1) to check the relationships between climate change and grain price (rice, soybean, and wheat) and (2) to check the price smoothing function of the grain market. Fortunately, we have long time-series data of grain prices. Using them as a proxy for harvest, we show the relationship between climate change and harvest. We suggest that the grain market in the period observed failed to smooth gain price, when cold summer spread through a wide area, but succeeded in smoothing it on occasions of regional drought.

2nd half

Welfare costs of business cycles and climate anomalies in developing economies. Evidence from Japan (1872-1917)

Jean-Pascal Bassino

We use prefecture level annual time series of average height for conscripts born in 1872-1917 as a measure of biological wellbeing, and evaluate the combined welfare effects of nationwide macroeconomic shocks and regional climate anomalies. We find that both nationwide macroeconomic shocks and regional-level climate anomalies determined the height cycle. We propose an estimation in monetary terms of the magnitude of irremediable welfare costs for the cohorts affected by economic recession and/or climate anomalies.

We use prefecture level annual time series of average height for conscripts born in 1872-1917 as a measure of biological wellbeing, and evaluate the combined welfare effects of nationwide macroeconomic shocks and regional climate anomalies. We find that both nationwide macroeconomic shocks and regional-level climate anomalies determined the height cycle. We propose an estimation in monetary terms of the magnitude of irremediable welfare costs for the cohorts affected by economic recession and/or climate anomalies.