Meiji Imperialism: Planned or Unplanned? Essay

Meiji Imperialism: Planned or Unplanned? Essay

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Before the Meiji era, Japan experienced rule by the Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo era. The Tokugawa shogunate did not allow other nations into Japan because “they had opened Japan to ‘corruption’ by the ideas of Christianity” (Beasley 22). However, the arrival of the American commander, Commodore Matthew C. Perry in the port of Edo changed Japan forever. “The advent of the Western powers thoroughly dislodged the Tokugawa international order. In March 1854, Japan concluded with the United States the ‘Treaty of Amity’ and, in July 1858, the ‘Treaty of Amity and Commerce’” (Zachmann 12). Japan was forced to sign the treaty, which opened the floodgates for other nations such as Britain and Russia to impose unequal treaties on Japan. This marked the end of feudalism in Japan, and the beginning of the Meiji era and imperialism.
Meiji expansion happened so rapidly that it led scholars to wonder whether imperialism was based on preordained design or on Japan’s reaction to these events as they happened. Was Meiji imperialism the result of long-time planning or a reaction to various unexpected happenings? After examining the debate between qualified scholars in the history of Japan, the unplanned theory best exemplified Meiji imperialism.
Bonnie B. Oh was one scholar that argued that the Meiji expansion was phenomenally rapid. Oh explained that the brief forty-four-year Meiji period “increased Japanese territorial holdings from less than 142,000 square miles of the four main islands to over 242,000 square miles, an increase of more than one and a half times. The colonies of Taiwan and Korea added some 15 million to a Japanese population which was already growing rapidly to almost 50 million by the end of the Meiji period” (Wray 125).
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Conroy, Hilary and Peter Shin. “[untitled].” The Inernational History Review 16.1
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Hirobumi, Ito et al. “Treaty of Shimonoseki: April 17, 1895.” International.ucla.edu.
UCLA Center for East Asian Studies, 29 May. 2008. Web. 10 Mar, 2010.
< http://www.international.ucla.edu/eas/documents/1895shimonoseki-treaty.htm>
Hunter, Janet. The Emergence of Modern Japan: An Introductory History since 1853.
London: Longman Group UK Limited, 1989. Print.
Wray, Harry and Hilary Conroy, ed. Japan Examined: Perspectives on Modern Japanese
History. Honolulu: Hawaii UP, 1983. Print.
Zachmann, Urs. China and Japan in the Late Meiji Period – China policy and the
Japanese discourse on national identity, 1895-1904. New York: Routledge, 2009.
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