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The Abacus and the Sword

The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910

Peter Duus (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 498 pages
ISBN: 9780520213616
April 1998
$36.95, £27.95
What forces were behind Japan's emergence as the first non-Western colonial power at the turn of the twentieth century? Peter Duus brings a new perspective to Meiji expansionism in this pathbreaking study of Japan's acquisition of Korea, the largest of its colonial possessions. He shows how Japan's drive for empire was part of a larger goal to become the economic, diplomatic, and strategic equal of the Western countries who had imposed a humiliating treaty settlement on the country in the 1850s.

Duus maintains that two separate but interlinked processes, one political/military and the other economic, propelled Japan's imperialism. Every attempt at increasing Japanese political influence licensed new opportunities for trade, and each new push for Japanese economic interests buttressed, and sometimes justified, further political advances. The sword was the servant of the abacus, the abacus the agent of the sword.

While suggesting that Meiji imperialism shared much with the Western colonial expansion that provided both model and context, Duus also argues that it was "backward imperialism" shaped by a sense of inferiority vis-à-vis the West. Along with his detailed diplomatic and economic history, Duus offers a unique social history that illuminates the motivations and lifestyles of the overseas Japanese of the time, as well as the views that contemporary Japanese had of themselves and their fellow Asians.
Peter Duus is William H. Bonsall Professor of History at Stanford University. He is author of Feudalism in Japan, (2nd ed. 1993), editor of The Cambridge History of Japan Vol. 6 (1989), and coeditor of The Japanese Informal Empire in Japan, 1895-1937 (1991).
"This is a major historical work that, in the field of Japanese imperialism, will set a standard for careful and comprehensive analysis. The Abacus and the Sword is the handiwork of a master historian."—Mark R. Peattie, author of Nan'yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945

"This book . . . deserves a wide readership, especially among East Asia history specialists, for it represents difficult and complex scholarship at its best. . . . It is clear from an analysis of his documentation that he put solid study into the Japan-Korea relationship problem, one of the most complex in modern East Asian history—the equivalent perhaps of the English-Irish relationship in Western History. . . . This book is . . . well worth reading, not only for East Asian specialists but for anyone fascinated by the mysteries of history."

Hilary Conroy, American Academy of Political Science

Co-winner of the Berkeley Prize for the best book by a senior author, Institute of East Asian Studies, the Centers for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean S

Hiromi Arisawa Award, Association of American University Presses

Co-recipient for the Akira Iriye International History Book Award for 1994-95, Foundation for Pacific Quest.

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