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17 - The Tokugawa Status Order

from Part III - Social Practices and Cultures of Early Modern Japan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2024

David L. Howell
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter describes the Tokugawa status order and its change over time by highlighting its constituent groups and their status-mediating functions. The Tokugawa state relied on locally specific status groups to govern the population. These groups were defined by land and occupation and possessed a high degree of autonomy in regulating their own affairs. The chapter characterizes the most common types of groups – retainer bands, villages, block associations (chō), monastic communities, guilds, and outcaste associations – and explains how status was assigned, expressed, and negotiated between the state and these groups, drawing on notions of occupation, privilege, duty, and household as well as on a system of household registration. The chapter surveys the development of the status order in three stages: the formative period of pacification in the sixteenth and seventeenth century; its maturation under Tokugawa rule; and the conditions and process of its dismantling around the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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