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Those Revolting Peasants (And A Few Revolting Ronin)

 
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Tsushima no Kami
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:10 pm    Post subject: Those Revolting Peasants (And A Few Revolting Ronin) Reply with quote
I finally got my book "Peasant Uprisings in Japan: A Critical Anthology of Peasant Histories", compiled and commented on by Anne Walthall. I'm just part of the way through it, but so far, it's fascinating. These are accounts written either contemporary to the revolts or shortly afterward. Walthall has done the translations and presented them here with some of her own analysis.

Walthall states that peasants/farmers constituted around 85% of the Japanese population during feudal times. The buke class was around 10%; of that percentage, Walthall didn't say what percent of the buke were ronin, but you can see by the mathematics that ronin formed a small percentage of the population as compared to farmers. Nevertheless, some of the accounts included stories of ronin who either joined in with peasants and in some cases (because of their military expertise) these ronin became the "generals" of these revolts.

So far, because I'm a computer programmer and not an academic, some of the "academese" is losing me a bit -- I still don't know what "critical theory" is, but it must be an important trend in the academic world. But the book is quite interesting and enlightening.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've only read a part of this, but it seems to me that the translator stated these accounts were all written in the 1800's, in some cases 200 years after the events supposedly happened. She also states that much of what is contained in them is fiction, even casting doubt on whether the much-ballyhooed Sakura Sogoro ever existed.
I did find it interesting that the author/translator stated that the vast majority of peasant protest took the form of petitioning the authorities (and other 'legal' channels) and that it very rarely became violent. It also seems most of what violence there was directed towards corrupt local officials and merchants.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
I've only read a part of this, but it seems to me that the translator stated these accounts were all written in the 1800's, in some cases 200 years after the events supposedly happened. She also states that much of what is contained in them is fiction, even casting doubt on whether the much-ballyhooed Sakura Sogoro ever existed.
I did find it interesting that the author/translator stated that the vast majority of peasant protest took the form of petitioning the authorities (and other 'legal' channels) and that it very rarely became violent. It also seems most of what violence there was directed towards corrupt local officials and merchants.
I noticed that. The whole Sakura Sogoro thing seems to be a compilation of various folks who protested. It apparently is doubtful that there was actually a real-life "Sakura Sogoro."

There is one account where the editor states was written directly after the actual uprising. It's the 2nd one in the book, the one about the "four orders of people" causing a disorder. This one had a couple of revolting ronin as their generals. Like the others, this one failed and the revolting ronin and revolting peasants were executed.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:

There is one account where the editor states was written directly after the actual uprising. It's the 2nd one in the book, the one about the "four orders of people" causing a disorder.


Yeah, I just saw that a little bit ago-it also looks like a couple of the other 4 of 5 works that were penned in the 1800's were closer in time to the 'events' than I had first thought.
I also found it interesting that Tokugawa era peasants were taxed far less harshly than their European counterparts. If the Tokugawa would have kept up-to-date land surveys, it appears there would have been a lot less impoverished samurai as time went on.
I'm disappointed to hear about Sakura likely being an amalgamation. I'm hoping the new Ikko-Ikki book from Harvard Press (thanks, Nagaeyari) might have a bit more about peasant armies in the Sengoku.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Still making my way through the accounts. My main problem lies mostly in Anne Walthall's annoying tendency to construct long, involved, run-on sentences. However, also with some of her "critical" analysis. She uses terms such as "social class" and "class consciousness." She seems to nitpick about whether a person believes that protests are motivated from "human failing" or from the "political structure" of the time. She also has specifically mentioned "Marxist" and "feminist" concepts. Needless to say, these are modern concepts not known to the writers of these accounts -- so I'm really truly unclear as to how Marxism and/or feminism have any relevance to any of these accounts. So why would Walthall mention "Marxism" and/or "feminism"?

Right now, I'm trying to wend my way through Walthall's truly convoluted analysis of the 2nd story, the "Four Orders of People" account. Walthall seems to be making a big issue that the account was most likely written by a ronin and that a ronin was one of the major players. I'm not sure, but it seems that Walthall doesn't think that ronin can ever form a common alliance with peasants. Because peasants are born in the peasant/farmer classs and ronin are originally born within the buke ("ruling class" as Walthall defines it).

I may be completely off on what I'm reading here. Perhaps someone who has more academic background than what I, as a computer programmer who majored in mathematics, has. Confused

In many ways, Walthall does make valid points. One cannot simply accept accounts as written; one must analyze who wrote the accounts and what their motivations might be. So perhaps -- because of some of Walthall's terminology, that's what I'm doing regarding Walthall's writings. Cool

The accounts, themselves, are quite interesting. Reading bits and parts of "living history." Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Still making my way through the accounts. My main problem lies mostly in Anne Walthall's annoying tendency to construct long, involved, run-on sentences. However, also with some of her "critical" analysis. She uses terms such as "social class" and "class consciousness." She seems to nitpick about whether a person believes that protests are motivated from "human failing" or from the "political structure" of the time. She also has specifically mentioned "Marxist" and "feminist" concepts. Needless to say, these are modern concepts not known to the writers of these accounts -- so I'm really truly unclear as to how Marxism and/or feminism have any relevance to any of these accounts. So why would Walthall mention "Marxism" and/or "feminism"?

Right now, I'm trying to wend my way through Walthall's truly convoluted analysis of the 2nd story, the "Four Orders of People" account. Walthall seems to be making a big issue that the account was most likely written by a ronin and that a ronin was one of the major players. I'm not sure, but it seems that Walthall doesn't think that ronin can ever form a common alliance with peasants. Because peasants are born in the peasant/farmer classs and ronin are originally born within the buke ("ruling class" as Walthall defines it).

I may be completely off on what I'm reading here. Perhaps someone who has more academic background than what I, as a computer programmer who majored in mathematics, has. Confused

In many ways, Walthall does make valid points. One cannot simply accept accounts as written; one must analyze who wrote the accounts and what their motivations might be. So perhaps -- because of some of Walthall's terminology, that's what I'm doing regarding Walthall's writings. Cool

The accounts, themselves, are quite interesting. Reading bits and parts of "living history." Smile


Now you see why I want to put out a history journal that doesn't require long winded analysis with analytical tools that don't contribute to anything except doing it for the sake of doing it.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Now you see why I want to put out a history journal that doesn't require long winded analysis with analytical tools that don't contribute to anything except doing it for the sake of doing it.
You've GOT to break up that run-on sentence!!! Blah blah blah Just Kidding Just Kidding
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
Now you see why I want to put out a history journal that doesn't require long winded analysis with analytical tools that don't contribute to anything except doing it for the sake of doing it.
You've GOT to break up that run-on sentence!!! Blah blah blah Just Kidding Just Kidding


That's not a run-on sentence--it's one distinct thought using a clause as the object. It's only a long sentence.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 5:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
ltdomer98 wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
Now you see why I want to put out a history journal that doesn't require long winded analysis with analytical tools that don't contribute to anything except doing it for the sake of doing it.
You've GOT to break up that run-on sentence!!! Blah blah blah Just Kidding Just Kidding


That's not a run-on sentence--it's one distinct thought using a clause as the object. It's only a long sentence.


He's right. It's not a run-on sentence.

The peasant class is one of my biggest interests in the field of Japanese history. According to Charles Dunn's Everyday Life in Traditional Japan, peasants sometimes gathered in protest or attempted to do so (sometimes were stopped by spies of the headman) or tried to approach their daimyo directly, or sent petitions to him. From the text it would appear that violent uprisings were only used as a last resort, when all the above methods (and possibly more) had clearly failed and the situation was desperate. The number of revolts quoted by the book during the Edo period is 1,500, or about six a year.

Another thing to remember is that they weren't trying to overthrow their lords or to revolutionize the class system. All these peasants wanted was for their problems to be addressed and corrected.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Azuki Arai wrote:
ltdomer98 wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
Now you see why I want to put out a history journal that doesn't require long winded analysis with analytical tools that don't contribute to anything except doing it for the sake of doing it.
You've GOT to break up that run-on sentence!!! Blah blah blah Just Kidding Just Kidding


That's not a run-on sentence--it's one distinct thought using a clause as the object. It's only a long sentence.


He's right. It's not a run-on sentence.
Whatever. It's not a run-on sentence; it's just a long sentence. Actually, I was making a joke -- not a very good one, I gather -- poking a bit of fun, not at ltdomer, but at all those insufferably long, convoluted phrases and sentences that I read in works written by academicians. Confused

I guess I'll stick to computer programming and let the English experts discuss English usage and grammar.

Down the Obenjo

Back on topic:
Quote:
The peasant class is one of my biggest interests in the field of Japanese history. According to Charles Dunn's Everyday Life in Traditional Japan, peasants sometimes gathered in protest or attempted to do so (sometimes were stopped by spies of the headman) or tried to approach their daimyo directly, or sent petitions to him. From the text it would appear that violent uprisings were only used as a last resort, when all the above methods (and possibly more) had clearly failed and the situation was desperate. The number of revolts quoted by the book during the Edo period is 1,500, or about six a year.

Another thing to remember is that they weren't trying to overthrow their lords or to revolutionize the class system. All these peasants wanted was for their problems to be addressed and corrected.
What you say makes a lot of sense. Peasant revolts were NOT revolutionary uprisings i.e. "Peasants of the World Unite -- You have nothing to lose but your Daimyos!!" No, when they did revolt (as a last resort), they just wanted their own problems to be addressed and corrected.

Just my ignorant musings: I'm not sure what Walthall's political leanings are: But she does use terms like "Marxism" and "class consciousness." Plus I see her nit-picking on motive i.e. whether a person believes that protests are motivated from "human failing" or from the "political structure" of the time. Myself, I believe that motivations for such revolts are far more complicated than just a sharp dividing line between "human failing/political structure."
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:


Whatever. It's not a run-on sentence; it's just a long sentence. Actually, I was making a joke -- not a very good one, I gather -- poking a bit of fun, not at ltdomer, but at all those insufferably long, convoluted phrases and sentences that I read in works written by academicians. Confused


Well, I got the joke.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Sorry, I knew there was a joke involved in there somewhere but I couldn't detect what the point of it was. So I was a little confused.

"Human failing" or "political structure"? I'm not sure what the author means by "human failing" without reading the phrase in context. Does she mean that uprisings might be considered a failure of moral judgement on the part of the peasants? If so, I don't think that's true at all. These farmers were people who while somewhat high on the class system, led extremely hard lives and were more or less unappreciated (phrases like "revolting peasants"). Some families were somewhat rich, but most of the peasants seemed to survive to continue farming the next year with little more income than that. They didn't have much savings. And when a catastrophe came along, like taxes being way more than they could possibly pay due to crop failure or something like that, they were in a pretty desperate situation. They could usually petition the daimyo to lower the tax amount, but they were usually expected to pay what they weren't able to that year, the following year in addition to regular taxes. So like I said, a pretty desperate situation in an extremely unpredictable lifestyle. I don't blame them for thinking they need to do something about it.

It's not like they stood to gain much from these revolts, other than possibly having their problems solved. They certainly weren't motivated by greed or war-lust or anything like that.
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