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Japan and the Asian Divergence: Market Integration, Climate Anomalies and Famines during the 18th and 19th Centuries

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  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal
  • van der Eng, Pierre

Abstract

This paper asks whether better integration of rice markets in Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries compared to China and India explains the ‘Little Divergence’ in Asia and Japan’s role in the ‘Great Divergence’. It analyses rice prices for 13 markets across Japan during 1720-1857 and finds that Japan had relatively well-integrated rice markets, particularly western Japan. In eastern Japan market integration was partially impeded by distance to Osaka, which was the core market, and the greater ecological vulnerability of rice in northeast Japan to lower temperatures during the ‘little ice age’ that lasted until the mid-19th century. Relatively well-integrated markets did not prevent major famines during 1732-1733, 1783-1786, and 1833-1838, because stocks and supplies were insufficient to withstand the consequences of sequences of crop failures. Better integration of rice markets is indicative of higher allocative efficiency of markets in Japan which is a likely reason that ‘shrinking’ episodes caused fewer setbacks in long-term economic growth compared to in China and India.

Suggested Citation

  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal & van der Eng, Pierre, 2019. "Japan and the Asian Divergence: Market Integration, Climate Anomalies and Famines during the 18th and 19th Centuries," CEI Working Paper Series 2018-18, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hit:hitcei:2018-18
    Note: This version: 2019/03/01
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    File URL: http://hermes-ir.lib.hit-u.ac.jp/hermes/ir/re/30118/wp2018-18.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Great Divergence; Famine; market integration; Tokugawa Japan; VAR; ECM;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N75 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East

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