How the Japanese Handled Imperialism

  • In the nineteenth century, Japan experiences a dramatic shift from the conservative, isolationist policies of the Edo period to the rapid and widespread drive to modernize and engage with the rest of the world that characterizes the Meiji Restoration.
  • During the first half of the century, there was decades of social disruption caused by the growth of a market economy and a complex economic system in a country that is still based on agriculture, which supports both the farming and privileged.
  • However the unproductive samurai classes continued to weaken the country in general. Increasingly aggressive intrusions by Western powers not only put pressure on Japan but convinced its political leaders that the Seclusion Policy has both limited the country’s participation in technological advances and worldwide changes and has also handicapped the economy by restricting its involvement in global trade.
  • Taking advantage of the disruption caused by these internal and external crises, in 1867 several powerful daimyo (regional warlords) band together and overthrew the leader at the time, brought in a new emperor, and started a revolution called the Meiji Restoration.

 

  • Japan was not formally colonized by Western powers, but was a colonizer itself. It has, however, experienced formal semi colonial situations where European powers attempted to colonize it. Which caused for modern Japan to be profoundly influenced by Western colonialism in many ways.
  • It is not true that “practically all Asian nations were colonized by the Europeans”. China and Russia were never colonized and they are a very large part of Asia in territory and population.
  • European colonizers mostly were successful in those territories close to the ocean. However Japan is an unique example.
  • Europeans discovered Japan in the 16th century, and started to penetrate it, setting the trade posts and converting the locals to Christianity. Which could have lead to colonization, as it lead in other places.
  • However the Japanese rulers were able to recognize the dangers early, and started an effective resistance. They used drastic measures like killing all those who converted to Christianity, banning firearms, prohibiting overseas travel. This way they managed to isolate the country almost completely and became a world power .
  • One important point was probably the unity of Japan. In other places, Europeans were able to colonize a country by taking sides in local conflicts, or to enlist some people opposing to the rulers.

 

  • Japan’s first encounter with Western colonialism was with Portugal.
  • The Portuguese brought Catholicism and the new technology of guns and gunpowder into Japan and changed the way samurai rulers fought wars, and accelerated the process of national unification.
  • In the following era, national rulers came increasingly to regard Catholicism as a serious threat to their authority. The Tokugawa shogunate eventually banned Christianity nationwide, and persecuted its followers. This experience contributed to the formation of the closed nation policy.
  • This policy was a response to the advance of Western colonialism, although its major objective was to consolidate the new regime. It banned Japanese overseas travel and contact with foreigners, and gave the government a monopoly over foreign trade.
  • The only European power that was allowed to trade with Japan was a new Protestant power, Holland, which was strictly confined to the port of Nagasaki. Yet through the study of Dutch materials, the Japanese were exposed to the latest European knowledge in fields such as medicine, botany, astronomy, and geography.

  • In 1825 the Japanese government began pursuing a hard-line policy, by attacking foreign ships other than those operated by the Dutch and Chinese, and by persecuting those who argued for the opening up of the country to foreign trade.
  • Britain’s victory over China in the Opium War (1839-1842) deepened Japan’s fear of colonization, and a debate erupted among concerned samurais in Japan over how to react to the encroachments of industrialized Western powers in search of markets and raw materials. Although the government acted quickly to strengthen Japan by acquiring the technology and skills of these powers, especially weaponry and military strategies, the opening up of the country was now about to happen.
  • However, Japan didn’t opening doors for trade did not result from a government policy change, but was forced on Japan by the military might of the new Pacific power, the United States.
  • While Britain was engaged in the Crimean War, the Tokugawa shogunate government gave in to the pressure of Commodore Matthew Perry and his East Indian U.S. Navy Fleet, and concluded the U.S.-Japan Friendship Treaty in 1854.
  • As a result, the ports were opened. The government further concluded a bilateral trade treaty with the United States in 1858 followed by similar treaties with the Netherlands, Russia, Britain, and France.
Advertisements

The First Anglo-Afghan War Simplified

  • Afghanistan has seen a lot more warfare in modern times compared to other countries.
  • Interventions and invasions from other countries has been a constant threat there since the 1800’s.
  • The Soviet Union in the 1980’s and The US in the 2000’s have both seen what it is like to fight in Afghanistan.
  • However the first Western power to attack Afghanistan was Britain.
    • It treated the war as a buffer towards the growing Russian Empire.
    • Which resulted in the First Anglo-Afghan War
    • Anglo means English.
  • Throughout history, Afghanistan has been divided into different ethnic and tribal divisions.
    • All having their own identity, culture, languages, rules.
  • So basically unity amongst the nation was hard to achieve.
  • Afghanistan also was a tension point between Safavid Persia on the West, and Mughal India to the East.
  • However with all the tensions an Afghan State was forming, under Ahmad Shah Durrani, and he established a kingdom in Kandahar.
  • He included ethnic groups in his administration to avoid ethnic civil war.
  • But the rise of both Russian and British Empires were the problem for the Afghan State in the 1800s.
  • The British had control over parts of India, and Russia slowly entered the Central Asian Turkic areas that were around Afghanistan’s northern borders.
  • For the British, Russia’s growth was a threat, and they were afraid that Russia would invade Afghanistan and find a way to invade India through Afghanistan, since it was less mountainous there. (Himalayas everywhere else – secure border)
  • So the British tried to stop that from happening, so if they could get the Emir (king) Dost Mohammad Khan who ruled Kabul, to keep good relations w/ Russia, and stop them from invading, Britain India would be secure.
  • 1830s- however Dost Mohammad’s diplomatic skills were weak – Russians allied w/ Persia to invade Afghanistan, but the British to stop that from happening thought that full on invading Afghanistan would be better, so they overthrew Dost Mohammad Khan, and established a new Emir – Shah Shujah Durrani – (pro-British).
  • Late 1838-and beginning of 1839 Britain with 20,000 soldiers invaded Afghanistan.
    • The British were more strong when it came to equipment, technology, and training, whereas the Afghans had warriors called Ghizais, but they were not full time loyal soldiers, and had the ability to abandon the battles and blend in as normal citizens.
  • 1839- Kandahar was lost, and fell to the British in April.
    • 500-1200 Afghans were killed, and only 17 British were killed in the siege.
    • Tried to save Kabul, but army started to abandon, only 3000 men offered services.
  • British power in Kabul brought changes to the living conditions of people – lack of food and supplies, inflation, and religious ppl were almost worthless.
  • 1841 – Angry people, about 15,000 started a big protest in Kabul, and the civilians who were actually warriors also picked up weapons and fought. They very quickly weakened many of the British troops there because they were well spread out.
  • Commander of British forces – General William Elphinstone noticed the weakness on his side, and managed an agreement of  retreat to Jalalabad to the East, with an army of 4,500 and followers of 12,000, and left Kabul in 1842.
  • However Ghilzais weren’t a part of the agreement, so they ambushed and harassed the British on their way, and it was winter, so many of them died due to the climate.
  • When they arrived to Jalalabad, only 1 man survived.
  • Afghanistan had a huge victory, by defeating Elphinstone’s huge army.
    • Gov. in Kabul collapsed, and Shah Shujah Durrani was assassinated in 1842
    • Dost Mohammad Khan came back to retake position of emir.
    • National unity started in Afghanistan.
    • Xenophobia started among the Afghans.
    • First Anglo-War gave Afghanistan the reputation of “the graveyard of empires” meaning that it is unconquerable.