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The Merchant's Tale


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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Illustrations
Notes on the Text
1. Out of Thin Air (1859-1860)
2. Years of Struggle (1860-1864)
3. Prosperity (1864-1866)
4. Transformation (1866-1873)
Conclusion: The Power of a Place

About the Author

Simon Partner is professor of history at Duke University. He is the author of Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer (1999); Toshie: A Story of Rural Life in Twentieth-Century Japan (2004); and The Mayor of Aihara: A Japanese Villager and His Community, 1865-1925 (2009).


To an already lively cast of Restoration characters-rascals and rebels, poets and fighters-The Merchant's Tale adds a new voice: that of the rural entrepreneur. Long on dreams but short on capital, Chuemon decamped early to the treaty port of Yokohama, where he would scramble for years to gain a profitable foothold at the epicenter of Japan's tumultuous encounter with the modern West. Simon Partner skillfully turns his letters home into a hair-raising romp across the Tokugawa/Meiji divide. A fresh take on a fascinating time. -- Karen E. Wigen, Stanford University
Like all Partner's work, The Merchant's Tale is beautifully written, in an engaging style, with vivid vignettes that bring to life the time and place that is his focus. -- Andrew Gordon, Harvard University
Combining his finely honed skills as a storyteller with his deep knowledge of historical context, Partner paints a compellingly human picture of nineteenth-century Japan's integration into the global economy, helping us understand the excitement and opportunities, as well as the risks and challenges that it opened up for those who decided to seek their fortunes in the bustling treaty port of Yokohama. The remarkable story of Shinohara Chuemon is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in the origins of modern Japan. -- Daniel Botsman, Yale University
A vivid and accessible account of the events and places that helped to form modern Japan. * The American Historical Review *
A Merchant's Tale is beautifully written and contains many thoughtful insights into the relations between Japan and the West seen from the perspective of ordinary people. . . . It will become essential reading for students of nineteenth-century Japanese and world history. -- Anne Walthall * The Journal of Japanese Studies *
Exceedingly accessible and rich in human detail. -- Eric C. Han * Journal of Asian Studies *
The book's focus on proto-industrial development, humanized through the trials and successes of Chuemon's business ventures, offers a refreshing addendum to the sociopolitical histories that currently dominate the field. * Choice *
Partner writes engaging and entertaining prose with great fluidity and authority. For anyone looking for an introduction into treaty port Yokohama, especially with sensitivity toward the Japanese predicament, Partner's work is a great place to start the adventure. -- Simon Bytheway * H-Japan *
A fascinating read. * The Historian *

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