Hisashi TAKAGI and Keiichiro KATO, History of credit transactions in medieval and early modern Japan: focusing on bills and private notes
The purpose of this special issue is to investigate the history of credit transactions in Japan through a consideration of both medieval bills and early modern private notes. Our two papers share a common hypothesis that medieval, negotiable means of payment can be seen as one of the preconditions for early modern private notes. Building on this view, Takagi examined bills from the late medieval period (fifteenth to sixteenth centuries), while Kato studied private notes in the early modern period (seventeenth to nineteenth centuries). This comparison has increased our knowledge and made important contributions to relevant academic fields. First, earlier studies had only looked at credit transactions in single periods; this is the first survey of credit transactions spanning five centuries. Second, we can see clearly that the medieval bills, which reflected social conditions specific to that period, were succeeded by early modern private notes. Third, our survey has shed light on the previously little studied eighteenth century, the so called void period, and allowed us to find an unexpected number of notes. Fourth, private notes followed bills in terms of format at the end of the early modern period. Takagi and Kato have thus provided evidence to show connections between the medieval bills and early modern private notes.
Hisashi TAKAGI, Technical attainment of the medieval bill in Japan
This paper reviews the process of establishment of bills known as shisatsu, early modern non-government notes, which were the first instance of paper currency in Japan. I review the process toward technical attainment of the medieval bill in Japan. The paper reviews previous studies on the format and function of the medieval bill and how it led to the shisatsu. While earlier studies have focused on the links between medieval bills and early modern forms of promissory notes, this study analyzes various forms of promissory notes, including kippu [medieval payment orders], government notes that Emperor Go-daigo attempted to issue, including saifu, azukarijo, kaejo [medieval bills of exchange or promissory notes], and Yamada-hagaki [the first instance of shisatsu], as steps on the way to the first paper money. My analysis shows that: (1) the azukarijo format for shisatsu was used to avoid tokusei [debt cancellation]; (2) shisatsu was established in an effort to reduce transaction costs and that the wording similar to that found on securities was chosen because of its functions and not due to a commitment to a medieval fetishism of documents; (3) there was a functional continuity among saifu, azukarijou, kaejo, and early modern paper currency; and (4) although the establishment of early modern paper currency in Japan dates to the medieval era, its character differed from the currency derived from Europe.
Keiichiro KATO, Private notes in early modern Japan: the case of Itami town
Private notes of early modern Japan have attracted little scholarly interest, perhaps due to the limited nature of available data. This paper approaches the problem through an investigation of private notes focusing on a single region. This paper focuses on Itami, a country town near Osaka, researching the issuing and distribution of private notes in that town from the 17th to the 19th century. Our investigation uncovered records of the issuing of private notes in the 18th and the early 19th centuries, a period that had previously been considered void of private notes. While earlier studies have argued for links between shortages of small change and the issuing of private notes, we argue that they were also used to promote regional industries and the prosperity of people. Thirdly, by the middle of the 19th century some private notes came to have a cheque-like design. We know that the use of cheques had spread in the early 19th century, especially in Itami and its surrounding areas, and so we can see that the form of private notes changed under the influence of the newly adopted cheques.
Masao INOUE, The value of the silver coin in the Taiho era (701-704) and the legal value of Wado coins
In 708 Wado silver coins and Wado copper coins were issued. The value of the Wado silver coin was the same as that of the mumon [a coin without letters] silver coin of the 7th century. There are two hypotheses concerning the value of the mumon silver coin. One theory argues that it had a value of 2 kida [ancient cloth unit], while the other suggested it had a value of 3/4 kida. In this paper I examined these hypotheses and proposed a third hypothesis arguing that the value was 3/2 kida. If we accept this hypothesis, we can understand the process by which the weight of the mumon silver coin became 1/4 ryo [one weight unit of the Taiho era].
The paper also examines the legal exchange rate between the Wado silver coin and the Wado copper coin in 708. We have three different rate theories: one-to-one, four-to-one, and ten-to-one. If we use the four-to-one and ten-to-one theories, we cannot explain the legal value of the copper coin naturally, and at the same time, we cannot clarify the price issue in 709, nor explain why Wado coins have the same style and size. On the contrary, the one-to-one hypothesis may clarify these controversial issues.
Man-han SIU, Development of the Chinese monetary system in the early 20th century: coinage and circulation of silver dollars
This article examines the development of the currency system in China by analyzing the coinage and circulation of silver dollars produced in Chinese modern-style mints between 1889 and 1933. The national coinage law of 1914 paved the way for the unification of silver dollar coins in China. In the 1920s, following initiatives of the Chinese official banks, a system was established centered in Shanghai that supplied silver dollar coins to the national economy. Under this system, a large number of identical silver dollars produced by mints in Nanjing and Hangzhou were supplied to extensive regions in China. Silver dollars became widely used among people who had never used them before, including members of the lower social class in urban areas and peasants in villages. At the end of 1931, the movement of silver reversed and a large number of silver dollars moved from interior regions to Shanghai, which led to the abolition of the tael as well as the establishment of the dollar as the unit of account in 1933. The official adoption of the silver dollar manifested structural changes in the monetary system in China.
Masanori TAKASHIMA, Agricultural production and economic growth in ancient Japan: a quantitative analysis of arable land, land productivity, and agricultural output
This study presents a quantitative analysis of long-term economic growth and living standards in ancient Japan, covering approximately 480 years comprising the Nara (710–794) and Heian (794–1195) periods. The analysis is conducted by estimating production in agriculture, which was the pillar of the ancient Japanese economy. Specifically, arable land, land productivity, and agricultural output are estimated using quantitative data obtained from ancient records. The results indicate that agricultural output growth was relatively moderate throughout the ancient period. On the other hand, productivity growth was stagnant. Agricultural output increased owing to an expansion of arable land during the first half of the period. The background of this expansion was a proactive policy pursued by the government, represented by the famous edict in 743, which allowed farmers who created new arable lands to own them permanently. Such policies contributed to increases of agricultural output as well as arable land, as also seen in the estimation result. However, since the government did not function effectively, agricultural production became sluggish during the second half of the period. Consequently, ancient Japan was characterised by little economic growth.
Akira YAMAZAKI, Foundation of Fideikommiss by a Brandenburgian noble family in the 19th Century
This paper considers the efforts of a representative Brandenburgian noble family to transform the property rights of its estate from Lehn (feu), which was based on a system of equal partition of the estate between male successors, into Fideikommiss, an entailed estate, through an examination of the case of the Marwitz family. Land improvements in the 18th century had increased the estimated value of the Friedersdorf Estate – manor of Marwitz – but high levels of consumption that accompanied the increase in the volume of bonds issued to family members under the equal succession system had created a serious financial situation. Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz considered the abolition of the Lehn as a way to stop the issue of new bonds and reduce the family’s debt. The plan called for the replacement of the Lehn with a Fideikommiss. This plan was implemented in 1854 by his successor, with the result that primogeniture was introduced in the family of Marwitz.