Northern Eurasia, 1500–1800
Civil War and the Invasion of Korea and Manchuria, 1500–1603
In the twelfth century, with imperial unity dissolved, Japan came under the
control of a number of regional warlords called
Warfare among the daimyo was common, and in 1592 the most powerful of these
warlords, Hideyoshi, chose to lead an invasion of Korea.
Although the Korean and Japanese languages are closely related, the dominant
influence on Yi dynasty Korea was China.
Despite the creative use of technological and military skill, the Koreans and their
Chinese allies were defeated by the Japanese.
After Hideyoshi's death in 1598, the Japanese withdrew their forces and, in 1606,
made peace with Korea.
The Japanese withdrawal left Korea in disarray and the Manchu in a greatly
The Tokugawa Shogunate, 1603–1800
In the late 1500s Japan’s Ashikaga Shogunate had lost control and the country
had fallen into a period of chaotic wars between local lords; a new shogun,
Tokugawa Ieyasu, brought all the local lords under the administration of his
Tokugawa Shogunate in 1600.
The Tokugawa Shogunate gave loyal regional lords rice lands close to the
shogunal capital in central Japan, while those lords who had not been supporters
of the Tokugawa were given undeveloped lands at the northern and southern
extremes of the islands. The Japanese emperor remained in Kyoto but had no
political power. This political structure had an important influence on the
subsequent development of the Japanese economy.
The decentralized system of regional lords meant that Japan developed well-
spaced urban centers in all regions, while the shogun’s requirement that the
regional lords visit Edo frequently stimulated the development of the
transportation infrastructure and the development of commerce, particularly the
development of wholesale rice exchanges.
The samurai became bureaucrats and consumers of luxury goods, spurring the
development of an increasingly independent merchant class whose most
successful families cultivated alliances with regional lords and with the shogun
himself. By the end of the 1700s the wealthy industrial families were politically
influential and held the key to modernization and the development of heavy
Japan and the Europeans
Jesuits came to Japan in the late 1500s, and while they had limited success in
converting the regional lords, they did make a significant number of converts
among the farmers of southern and eastern Japan. A rural rebellion in this area in
the 1630s was blamed on Christians; the Tokugawa Shogunate responded with
persecutions, a ban on Christianity, and, in 1649, the closing of the country.