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By G. C. Allen

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Sample text

He was even contemplating the abolition of the han and the establishment of a modern system of centralized government. The Shogun also attempted to deal with the rise in prices, which was causing unrest in the early decades of the nineteenth century. This rise in prices was commonly attributed at the time to the activities ofthe guilds. These organizations were pursuing an increasingly exclusive policy. In consequence, there was a considerable growth in the number of journeymen (shokunin) who, though q ualified by apprenticeship for the status of master craftsmen, were not admitted to full membership ofthe guilds.

16 The composition of the foreign trade was typical of a country in Japan's stage of development. The bulk of the imports consisted of manufactured goods, of which textiles, particularly cotton, formed by far the most important group of commodities. The import of cheap Manchester goods rose very rapidly in the early seventies and displaced many of the domestic fabrics formerly produced in the hornes of the people. Other fairly important items consisted of capital goods, such as machinery, ships, railway equipment, munitions, and other manufactured metal products.

Thus, institutions which the Shogun had recognized for the purpose of enabling hirn to control the economic life of the country, and which provided hirn with a useful adjunct to his revenue in the form of licence fees, had crumbled even before the political revolt had begun. When foreign trade began to increase after 1858, the social distress that had attended these economic troubles was intensified. The distribution of economic resources that had been stereotyped by a policy of seclusion and rigid trade regulation could not be preserved once Japan was exposed to the world market.

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