Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism: Crash Course World History #34

Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism: Crash Course World History #34


Hi, I’m John Green. This is Crash Course World
History, and today we’re going to talk about nationalism, the most important global phenomenon
of the nineteenth century and also the phenomenon responsible for one of the most commented-upon
aspects of Crash Course, my globes being out of date. USS “R” not a country! [Explosion noise.]
Rhodesia? [Explosion noise.] South Vietnam? [Explosion noise.]
Sudan with no South Sudan? [Explosion noise.] Yugoslavia? [Explosion noise.] Okay, no more inaccuracies with the globes.
Ahhh, the little globes! This one doesn’t know about Slovakia [explosion
noise], this one has East-frackin’ Pakistan [explosion
noise] and this one identifies Lithuania as part
of Asia [explosion noise]. Okay, no more globe inaccuracies. Actually,
bring back my globes. I feel naked without them. [theme music] So if you’re into European history, you’re
probably somewhat familiar with nationalism and the names and countries associated with
it. Bismarck in Germany, Mazzini and Garibaldi in Italy and Mustafa Kemal, a.k.a. Ataturk,
in Turkey. But nationalism was a global phenomenon, and
it included a lot of people you may not associate with it, like Muhammad Ali in Egypt and also
this guy [Lincoln]. Nationalism was seen in the British dominions
as Canada, Australia and New Zealand became federated states between 1860 and 1901. I
would say “independent states” instead of federated states, but you guys still have
a queen! It was also seen in the Balkans, where Greece
gained its independence in 1832 and Christian principalities fought a war against the Ottomans
in 1878. In India, where a political party, the Indian National Congress, was founded
in 1885, and even in China, where nationalism ran up against the dynastic system that had
lasted more than two thousand years. And then, of course, there are these guys
[Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito], who in many ways, represent the worst of nationalism,
the nationalism that tries to deny or eliminate difference in the efforts to create a homogeneous,
mythologized unitary polity. We’ll get to them later, but it’s helpful to bring them up now
just so we don’t get too excited about nationalism. Okay, so before we launch into the history,
let’s define the modern nation-state. Definitions are slippery, but for our purposes, a nation-state
involves a centralized government that can claim and exercise authority over a distinctive
territory. That’s the state part. It also involves a certain degree of linguistic and
cultural homogeneity – that’s the nation part. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! By that definition, China was
a nation-state by, like, probably the Han dynasty. Dude, Me From the Past, you’re
getting smart! Yeah, it could be, and some historians argue that it was. Nationhood is
really hard to define. Like in James Joyce’s Ulysses, the character Bloom famously says
that a nation is “the same people living in the same place,” but then he remembers the
Irish and Jewish Diasporas and adds, “or also living in different places.” But let’s ignore
Diasporas for the moment and focus on territorially-bounded groups with a common heritage. Same people,
same place. So how do you become a nation? Well, some
argue it’s an organic process involving culturally-similar people wanting to formalize their connections; others
argue that nationalism is constructed by governments, building a sense of patriotism through compulsory
military service and statues of national heroes. Public education is often seen as part of
this nationalizing project. Schools and textbooks allow countries to share their nationalizing
narratives, which is why the once and possibly-future independent nation of Texas issues textbooks
literally whitewashing early American history. Still, other historians argue that nationalism
was an outgrowth of urbanization and industrialization, since new urbanites were the most likely people
to want to see themselves as part of a nation. For instance, Prague’s population rose from
157,000 to 514,000 between 1850 and 1900, at the same time that the Czechs were beginning
to see themselves as separate from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Which is a cool idea, but it doesn’t explain
why other less-industrialized places like India also saw a lot of nationalism. The actual business of nationalization involves
creating bureaucracies, new systems of education, building a large military, and often using
that military to fight off other nation-states, since nations often construct themselves in
opposition to an idea of otherness. A big part of being Irish, for instance, is not
being English. So emerging nations had a lot of conflicts,
including the Napoleonic Wars, which helped the French become the French, the Indian Rebellion
of 1857, which helped Indians to identify themselves as a homogeneous people, the American
Civil War – I mean, before the Civil War, many Americans thought of themselves not as
Americans, but as Virginians or New Yorkers or Pennsylvanians. I mean, our antebellum
nation was usually called “THESE United States.” After, it became THE United States. So in the U.S, nationalism pulled a nation
together, but often, nationalism was a destabilizing force for multiethnic land-based empires.
This was especially the case in the Ottoman Empire, which started falling apart in the
nineteenth century as first the Greeks, then the Serbs, Romanians, and Bulgarians, all
predominantly Christian people, began clamoring for and, in some cases winning, independence. Egypt is another good example of nationalism
serving both to create a new state and to weaken an empire. Muhammad Ali, who was actually
Albanian and spoke Turkish, not Egyptian Arabic, and his ruling family encouraged the Egyptian
people to imagine themselves as a separate nationality. But okay, so nationalism was a global phenomenon
in the nineteenth century, and we can’t talk about it everywhere, so instead, we’re going
to focus on one case study: Japan. You thought I was going to say Germany, didn’t you? Nope.
You can bite me, Bismarck. Japan had been fragmented and feudal until
the late sixteenth century, when a series of warrior landowners managed to consolidate
power. Eventually, power came to the Tokugawa family, who created a military government,
or bakufu. The first Tokugawa to take power was Ieyasu,
who took over after the death of one of the main unifiers of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi,
sometimes known as “The Monkey,” although his wife called him – and this is true – “The
Bald Rat.” In 1603, Ieyasu convinced the emperor, who
was something of a figurehead, to grant him the title of shogun. And for the next 260
years or so, the Tokugawa bakufu was the main government of Japan. The primary virtue of
this government was not necessarily its efficiency or its forward-thinking policies, but its
stability. Stability: the most underrated of governmental virtues. Let’s go to the Thought
Bubble. The Tokugawa bakufu wasn’t much for centralization,
as power was mainly in the hands of local lords called daimyo. One odd feature of the
Tokugawa era was the presence of a class of warriors who, by the nineteenth century, had
become mostly bureaucrats. You may have heard of them: the samurai. One of the things that made this hereditary
class so interesting was that each samurai was entitled to an annual salary from the daimyo
called a stipend. This privilege basically paid them off and assured that they didn’t become restless
warriors, plaguing the countryside – that is, bandits. We tend to think of samurai as noble and honorable,
but urban samurai, according to Andrew Gordon’s book A Modern History of Japan, they were
“a rough-and-tumble lot. Samurai gang wars – a West Side Story in the shadows of Edo
Castle – were frequent in the early 1600s.” And you still say that history books are boring. As with kings and lesser nobles anywhere,
the central bakufu had trouble controlling the more powerful daimyo, who were able to
build up their own strength because of their control over local resources. This poor control
also made it really difficult to collect taxes, so the Tokugawa were already a bit on the
ropes when two foreign events rocked Japan. First was China’s humiliating defeat in the
Opium Wars, after which Western nations forced China to give Europeans special trade privileges.
It was a wake-up call to see the dominant power in the region so humbled, but even worse
for the Tokugawa was the arrival of Matthew Perry. No, Thought Bubble, Matthew Perry.
Yes, that one. The Tokugawa are somewhat famous for their
not-so-friendly policy toward foreigners, especially Western Christian ones, for whom the
penalty for stepping foot on Japanese soil was death. The Tokugawa saw Christianity in much the
same way as the Romans had, as an unsettling threat to stability. And in the case of Matthew
Perry, they had reason to be worried. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So the American naval
commodore arrived in Japan in 1853 with a flotilla of ships and a determination to open
Japan’s markets. Just the threat of American steam-powered
warships was enough to convince the bakufu to sign some humiliating trade treaties that
weren’t unlike the ones that China had signed after losing the Opium Wars. And this only further motivated the daimyo
and samurai, who were ready to give the Tokugawa the boot. Within a few years, they would. So what does this have to do with nationalism?
Well, plenty. First off, even though the Americans and the Japanese didn’t go to war… yet,
the perceived threat provided an impetus for Japan to start thinking about itself differently. It also resulted in the Japanese being convinced
that if they wanted to maintain their independence, they would have to reconstitute their country
as a modern nation-state. This looks a lot like what was happening in
Egypt or even Germany, with external pressures leading to calls for greater national consolidation. So the Tokugawa didn’t give up without a fight,
but the civil war between the stronger daimyo and the bakufu eventually led to the end of
the shogunate. And in 1868, the rebels got the newly-enthroned
Emperor Meiji to abolish the bakufu and proclaim a restoration of the imperial throne. Now
the emperor didn’t have much real power, but he became a symbolic figure, a representative
of a mythical past around whom modernizers could build a sense of national pride.
And in place of bakufu, Japan created one of the most modern nation-states in the world. After some trial and error, the Meiji leaders
created a European-style cabinet system of government with a prime minister, and in 1889,
promulgated a constitution that even contained a deliberative assembly, the Diet, although
the cabinet ministers weren’t responsible to it. Samurai were incorporated into this system
as bureaucrats and their stipends were gradually taken away. And soon the Japanese government
developed into, like, something of a meritocracy. Japan also created a new conscript army. Beginning
in 1873, all Japanese men were required to spend three years in the military. The program
was initially very unpopular – there were more than a dozen riots in 1873 and 1874, in
which crowds attacked military registration centers. But eventually, serving in the army created
a patriotic spirit and a loyalty to the Japanese emperor. The Meiji leaders also instituted
compulsory education in 1872, requiring both boys and girls to attend four years of elementary
school. Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? An Open Letter to Public Education. But first,
let’s see what’s in the Secret Compartment today. Oh, it’s a graduation hat. Thanks, Meredith the
intern, for letting me borrow your graduation hat. Dear Public Education, When you were introduced
in Japan, you were very unpopular, because you were funded by a new property tax. In
fact, you were so unpopular that at least two thousand schools were destroyed by rioters,
primarily through arson. Stan, it doesn’t look good when you bring
it in close like that. I look like a 90-year-old swimmer. And even though public education has proved
extremely successful, lots of people still complain about having to pay taxes for it,
so let me explain something. Public education does not exist for the benefit
of students or for the benefit of their parents. It exists for the benefit of the social order.
We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a
child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your
life, you benefit from public education! So let me explain why I like to pay taxes
for schools, even though I don’t personally have a kid in school. It’s because I don’t like
living in a country with a bunch of stupid people. Best wishes,
John Green. In Japan, nationalism meant modernization,
largely inspired by, and in competition with, the West. So the Meiji government established
a functioning tax system, they built public infrastructure like harbors and telegraph
lines, invested heavily in railroads and created a uniform national currency. But the dark side of nationalism began to
appear early on. In 1869, the Meiji rulers expanded Japan’s borders to include the island
of Hokkaido, and in 1879, they acquired Okinawa after forcing its king to abdicate. In 1874, Japan even invaded Taiwan with an
eye toward colonizing it, though they weren’t successful. And in these early actions, we
already see that nationalism has a habit of thriving on conflict. And often, the project
of creating a nation-state goes hand-in-hand with preventing others from doing the same. This failure to imagine the other complexly
isn’t new, but it’s about to get a lot more problematic, as we’ll see next week, when we
discuss European imperialism. Thanks for watching. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller. Our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. We’re ably interned by Meredith Danko and
our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Raoul Meyer: Also, the show was written by
my high school history student, John Green, and myself, Raoul Meyer. John: Last week’s phrase of the week was “bearded
Marxist.” If you’d like to guess at this week’s phrase of the week or suggest future ones,
you can do so in comments, where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will
be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in
my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome!

100 Comments on "Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism: Crash Course World History #34"


  1. I just finished my master's in US history but am watching these videos to brush up on my world history knowledge for my teaching certification exams. I have never read the comments before but knew I had to for this video for the Matthew Perry comments– did not disappoint!

    Reply

  2. Without nationalism there can be no true prosperity. You can try to fight your nature, but you will eventually lose.

    Reply

  3. – nationalism? glorified modern tribalism.
    – public education system? not so much to make people smart, but mainly to train to integrate and condition them into the system for the benefit of the system

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  4. I need clarification on the statement, "Public education is often seen as part of this nationalizing project. Schools and textbooks allows countries to share their nationalizing narrative, which is why the once and possibly-future independent nation of Texas issues textbooks literally whitewashing early American history." Give an example. I think your left view is mistaken. Many of the textbooks issued in Texas are published by McGraw Hill out of Columbus, Ohio. Texas does not have its own "school textbook publisher", but maybe we should.

    Reply

  5. I don't think that's an entirely fair definition of nationalism. here's a short explanation.

    1) the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity
    2) the actions that the members of a nation take when seeking to achieve (or sustain) self-determination.

    Reply

  6. Pretty amazing Japan went from being way behind in modernization to the most modernised country by the 1930s

    Reply

  7. These videos are too fast because there is too many irrelevant descriptions and examples which are included, even though most part is relevant I watch the videos at a 0.75 speed just to avoid a headache.

    Reply

  8. Nationalism: "Being proud of something you've never done and hating people you've never met"

    Reply

  9. Could you please make a video on the Sino Japanese War
    …or if you could summarize it for me??
    Thank you

    Reply

  10. so what are some differences of extreme nationalism between germany and japan after ww1 and before ww2?

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  11. "So let me explain why I don't mind paying taxes for public education even if I don't have a kid in school….it's because I don't like living IN A COUNTRY FULL OF STUPID PEOPLE!…" Well, you may have to move to another country now 🙁

    Reply

  12. one problem. you don't like living in coutry with stupid people but you live in thr USA…

    Reply

  13. I think Germany would have been a better choice for nationalism. Still you talks are always informative.

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  14. You want to pay taxes for schools so that people aren’t stupid?
    You can’t drink yourself sober, buddy.

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  15. When otome games and research makes me feel proud that I know the Japanese stuff… :))

    Reply

  16. PLEASE HELP!!!! I HAVE A DBQ FOR WHAP AND I NEED ASSISTANCE!!!
    Topic: Analyze similarities and differences in the industrialization of the cotton industry in Japan and India in the period from 1180s to 1930s.

    PLEASE IF ANYONE CAN GIVE ME 2 SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES, PLEASE DO SO.
    I got India (because that 's obvious), but I need 2 for Japan.

    Reply

  17. Your video was great. But it was too fast. Could you please speak a bit slower. It would be great help for me and other non natives.

    Reply

  18. Imagine if all wars and independence movements were all orchestrated by the globe industry to sell more globes. Hence, globalists.

    Reply

  19. hi i’m from texas i would like to confirm the fact that texas has an awful education system

    Reply

  20. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made probably the best definition of nationalism: how happy to one who says he/she is a Turk. It does not related with race but community. This definition is combined with a great statement: peace at home, peace in the world. So love your country and people, but dont think you are better than any other. <3

    Reply

  21. Ohhhhhh. 🤪 I thought you were gonna try and say ("Friends") that Mathew Perry had an impact on Feudal Japan. (SMDH🤐🙄😵🙊)

    Reply

  22. The defeat of china in the blank made japan aware that the European nations posed a threat please respond

    Reply

  23. Can u do one about the mohamed ali the albanian who slaughtered both the ottomans and mamluks in egypt! Please?

    Reply

  24. why did i just realise that one of my favourite authors taught me how the heart works. oh oof that can be taken two ways but it was biology before romance

    Reply

  25. What bizaro world do you live in that isn't mostly stupid people?! Bring me there please ;~;

    Reply

  26. Nationalism is just the long goodbye from monarchy. The future are state associations like the European Union and ASEAN.

    Reply

  27. I Love this channel but by using western historians to quote the samurai you've lost their authenticity, and most likely their view from Japanese culture, you know the people that lived there?

    Reply

  28. "I don't like living in a country full of stupid people"? Then that country elected the Rotting Orange.

    Reply

  29. "The project of creating a nation-state goes hand in hand with preventing others from doing the same." That is an interesting idea.

    Reply

  30. Fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast I'm saying slow downn

    Reply

  31. While the Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia remain under the "rule" of the Crown, with the Queen being their head of state, the UK has no power over them, symbolic or otherwise. Lizzie is refered to as the 'Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms'. In other words, the Queen is the sovereign of many different and independent of each other, nations.
    (P.S. I'm a fierce Australian Republican and I'd love nothing more than to see the Queen given the boot, but I still stand by my country's independence).

    Reply

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