Socio-Economic History

Vol. 82, No. 1

Miho TANAKA, The credit market in proto-industrialized areas in early modern Japan: interest rate changes in the Choshu domain during the late Tokugawa period

The Choshu domain was a well-known center of rural industrialization during the late Tokugawa period. This study examines the impact of the domain's policies on the credit market and rural industrialization. An analysis of the interest rates recorded on loan contracts shows that the interest rate in credit markets decreased throughout the Tokugawa period. Domain policies played a role in improving the credit market. Through regression analysis we can see that domain policies to encourage agricultural production decreased the risk that borrowers would not be able to repay loans on time. The domain's policy of issuing local notes changed the supply and demand for funds, consequently lowering the interest rate. This study examines the interest rate changes in the credit market through case studies of regions that specialized in the production of cotton textiles and Japanese wax. In areas that specialized in the production of these two commodities, the Choshu domain’s policies lowered the interest rates. In addition, we can see that the credit market played an important role in meeting the demand for funds for proto-industrial production activities.


Kazuo MIDORIKAWA, A re-examination of the official standards on crop yields of paddy fields: a consideration of inasoku in the Heian period

This paper aims to clarify the weight of inasoku, which was historically an important unit of weight in Japan. In so doing, it will re-examine official standards of the crop yields from paddy fields. Earlier studies have calculated that the unit of volume of 1 sho in the Heian period was approximately equal to 720 cm3. When this standard is used together with information on crop yields from paddy fields given in the regulations and the land area given in the Handenshujuho (Act on Allocation of Land), the conclusion has been that the people would not have been able to survive on the land they were given. The analysis in this paper shows that the weight of threshed rice from 1 ha (unit for measuring inasoku) is 600 g, which is equivalent to 1 kin (unit of weight). In terms of volume, this weight converts to 1,450 cm3, which is twice the amount commonly considered by earlier historians. This re-calculation of standards for crop yields of rice fields doubles the earlier results, and so we can conclude that people could survive on the amount of land they were allotted under the law.


Serika NAGASAWA, The British slave trade and slave factors

This paper examines the characteristics of slave factors, who sold slaves on behalf of slave merchants in the West Indies in the eighteenth century. I compare their operations to those of agents of the Royal African Company (RAC) who had earlier organized sales for the company’s slave cargo. The British transatlantic slave trade in the latter half of the seventeenth century had been monopolized by RAC agents who handled the sale of slaves in the colonies. After the company opened its doors to independent slave merchants, colonial slave factors started to operate slave sales on a commission basis. Correspondence exchanged among slave factors, a slave merchant, and a vessel captain concerning a voyage of the Essex shows that in the latter half of the eighteenth century slave factors had to compete more fiercely than RCA agents if they wanted to get contracts with slave merchants. As a result, the slave factors provided efficient services, such as supplying updated information and quick and safe remittance, reducing the risks for slave merchants. Slave factors thus functioned to secure the efficiency and profitability of the slave trade.


Tomoaki TANAKA, A history of the distribution of musical instruments in the prewar period: a case history of the Osaka Miki Sasuke Store

This paper discusses the methods used by wholesale merchants to maintain their independence in the face of efforts by prewar manufacturers to increase control over the distribution system. Analysis of prewar contracts and financial documents related to the distribution of western musical instruments of the current Miki Sasuke Store in Osaka will demonstrate the issues involved. The Meiji period saw a great increase in the availability of foreign goods, including sewing machines, automobiles, cosmetics, detergents, appliances, and western pharmaceuticals. Manufacturers sought to exercise stronger control over distribution to deal with problems traditional distribution channels could not handle, such as market development and sales. How did wholesalers keep their competitive edge against the increasingly strong position of manufacturers?
The Miki Store, originally a bookshop started selling western musical instruments from the Meiji period. After the 1920s, the store incorporated outside organizations into its music business, enabling more predictable internal transactions. It was thus able to build a business environment that eased uncertainty and sustained its independence.
By analysing this case history, we can better understand the previously little studied marketing strategies of wholesalers of musical instruments in the prewar period, as well as deepen our historical understanding of distribution channels in Japan.