Socio-Economic History

Vol. 77, No. 1

Landowners and peasants in the process of urban formation: a case study of Amagasaki city, Hyogo prefecture, 1937-1952

This study aims to clarify the characteristics of the urbanization that occurred under the land readjustment projects implemented in the period from the Sino-Japanese War to the reforms following World War II, by focusing on the conflict between landowners and peasants in Amagasaki city, Hyogo prefecture. The following are the three points examined:

The first point explains how arable land within the land readjustment site was actually used during the war. Landowners paid the peasants compensation money before the land readjustment project was implemented. The project, however, fell behind due to lack of materials, thus allowing the peasants to continue farming.

The second point involves the conflict between landowners and peasants during the period of the post-war reforms. The conflict was over relocation and reduction of the arable land, both of which the peasants opposed. In the end, the claims made by the landowners who followed government policy were accepted.

The third point presents the characteristics of urbanized areas. The implementation of the land readjustment project caused the reduction of arable land, creating instead land for public use. Nevertheless, the peasants influenced the formation of urban areas by continuing the use of land for farming with the approval of the Agricultural Committee, the local authority that oversees agricultural issues.


Formulation of expectations in price fluctuation in Japan during the interwar period: an analysis using commodity futures price data

Many economic historians have studied macroeconomic policies during interwar Japan. Recent developments in the Japanese economy, such as long-term deflation and stagnation of economic growth, shed new light on the Japanese experience between the two world wars, and some researchers have started to apply new methods of economics and econometrics to the earlier period.

This paper explores the formulation of expectations in price fluctuations in Japan during the interwar period. To this end, the paper employs quantitative analysis using commodity futures price data and narrative analysis of views expressed by market participants in business magazines at that time.

This paper reveals that market participants in Japan paid great attention to differences in commodity prices between Japan and overseas markets when they formulated expectations in future price fluctuations. At the same time, they paid little attention to domestic factors such as monetary and fiscal policies as primary determinants of future price movements. This result implies that the market participants regarded the Japanese economy as a small and open economy within a fixed exchange rate system, not as a closed economy or a small and open economy within a flexible exchange rate system.


Coordination of plant investment and growing overcapacity in the petrochemical industry following the recession cartel (1972–1985)

This study seeks to elucidate the events that led the petrochemical (ethylene production) industry to suffer from overcapacity. It focuses on the period after 1972, when a recession cartel was formed among ethylene producers to mitigate overcapacity. Previous studies have attributed the industry’s excess capacity to the excessive competition following the MITI’s policy in 1967, by which the construction of new plants was limited to those capable of producing more than 300,000 tons annually, and as a result have seldom examined investment and coordination of investment by petrochemical firms during the period. This paper determines that plant investment after the formation of recession cartel did have a more substantial and negative impact on creating excess capacity than did the 300,000-ton production standard of the earlier period. This analysis reveals that despite chronic overcapacity and the formation of a recession cartel in 1972, plant investment continued. The major factor contributing to continued plant investment was the inability of mechanisms in place from the past to adapt to such changes in the environment as the end of the period of rapid economic growth and onset of the oil crisis.


Takahito MORI
The communal unemployment insurance in Wilhelmine Germany: a case study of the Administrative Union of Greater Berlin

In Wilhelmine Germany, unemployment insurance was put into effect at the communal level at the end of the 19th century, although it was not established at the national level. The main system adopted was the Genter system, in which the municipalities paid subsidies to the trade unions that provided their out-of-work members with unemployment benefits. The system involved such problems as the exclusion of non-organized labourers (namely, the majority of the working class) and the expansion of the Social Democratic Party through its financial support for the Free Trade Union. Despite these problems, however, the introduction of the Genter system was seriously considered in many municipalities, including Schöneberg and Charlottenburg in the Administrative Union of Greater Berlin. The municipality of Schöneberg managed to establish a new system (based on the Genter system) aimed at including non-organized labourers. Meanwhile, a similar system was also proposed in Charlottenburg but rejected by the city council. The objective of the present article is to make a comparative analysis of the above-mentioned municipalities with their contrasting results, and to show the historical context in which the Genter system was accepted, while focusing upon the then political philosophy, the social task of municipalities.


The formation of a minimum wage system by the Board of Trade in Britain: a study on the Trade Boards Act of 1909

By enacting the Trade Boards Act of 1909, Britain became the first major country to introduce a minimum wage system in the modern age. In this paper, the author tries to elucidate the formative process of the Trade Boards Act by focusing on the organisational characteristics of the Board of Trade, which introduced the act.

Most studies thus far have assumed that leading civil servants on the Board of Trade were progressive-minded and that they eagerly pushed forward minimum wage legislation driven by their radicalism. In fact, however, those civil servants at the Board of Trade regarded the promotion of British export trade rather than the improvement of working conditions of labourers as their most important duty. As a result, they consistently resisted introducing minimum wage legislation in fear of its negative effect on the competitiveness of the British industry. Nevertheless, minimum wage legislation was decided by the cabinet mainly due to the urgings of Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone. However, the Board of Trade took the place of the Home Office and took charge of the minimum wage system. Subsequently, due to the management by the civil servants on the Board of Trade, the Trade Boards Act was emasculated.