Monday, January 31, 2011

19th Century Korea: Rise or Fall?


            What is the economic development in 19th Century Korea? Do you think it was prosperous or depreciating?

Eighteenth century Korea was an ever changing society in that century.  There are many factors that brought fourth these reforms.  Some of the things that changed Korea in the 19th century were:
·         Stable Population Growth
·         High Productivity per Capita
·         Weakening Central Government
·         New Technology
The biggest change to Korean culture in the 19th century was in my opinion new technologies.  New crops, forms of irrigation, and agricultural techniques allowed for more food to be produced and the increased higher productivity per capita.  More food leads to a societies ability to sustain a larger population.
Economic growth transformed Seoul from merely a center of government into a center of economic and cultural activity. With the rise of a wealthy merchant class came a challenge to the traditional Confucian social order. Gradually the financial successes of merchants forced some adjustments in social attitudes although scholarship continued to be seen as the most noble pursuit.
Seoul's expanding population required still more living space by the mid-1800's so the city pushed outward beyond its original walls. By this time, more foreign influences were seeping into Korea. Westerners and Japan were applying ever greater pressure on Korea to open up to trade.
By the late 1800's, Korea had been forced to end its long, self-imposed isolation. Japan, the U.S., and various European nations won trade treaties. With the opening up of foreign trade, Korea had to modernize its ports. It began to build a railroad to link the southern port city of Pusan to Seoul, and it gradually adopted other forms of western technology. Foreigners introduced new ideas as well as inventions to Seoul. At the same time, Korean diplomats and students who had gone abroad returned home with plans for improving and expanding their nation's capital. They wanted to model Seoul on the cities they had seen abroad.  With all this being said I think that overall, Korean society improved in the 19th century.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scouting in Sub-Saharan Africa

              On Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 Shawnee State University welcomed Mr. Euloge Ishimwe , as a visiting lecturer. Mr. Euloge Ishimwe is Regional Communications Manager with the World Scout Bureau.  Scouts International is the parent group to what we call in the United States as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.  Both the Boy and Girl Scouts of America are reputable organizations with proud traditions here in the United States.  They are both known for their fund raising in this country, the Girl Scouts for the cookies and Boy Scouts for the popcorn.  Many generations have participated in both these organizations, my father was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts and I participated in the organization when I was younger.

                When I first heard about the lecture I was excited to go hear it; when I found out it was about Scouts International my interest decreased; it was only because going in I was misinformed.  For whatever reason being I thought the lecture was to be about politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, not Scouts International in Sub-Saharan Africa.   Although I had a somewhat low expectation, I was very pleased with the lecture on Scouts International and what they are doing around the world.  One of the things that they do that I feel is very helpful is their initiative to teach their scouts how to farm, and not just cash crops but self sustaining crops. 

                Poverty and disease run ramped in some areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.  One of the many factors that affect the high poverty levels is that there are very few jobs.  By teaching these young scouts how to farm you are giving them the tools to provide for themselves and their families.  My personal belief is that the best way to better a society is to better the people in it through education; when the people of any given society are better educated and more informed; it betters the society they live in.
                The kind of farming also makes a big difference in the life style of the farmer.  There are two types of crops that are grown in this area of the world; those two types are cash crops and self sustaining crops.  These are very broad terms but most crops can be classified into one of these categories.  Cash crops are crops that are raised for the intent of selling them; self sustaining crops are raised with intention of using them by the farmer, and then selling the excess.  Some examples of cash crops are jute, coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, bananas, oranges, cotton, tobacco, poppies, and cannabis.  Examples of self sustaining crops are corn, wheat, cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, carrots, pumpkin, squash, lettuce, and onions.
In a purely capitalist utopian model, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cash crops but like in a lot of fields, some things may work in theory, but not in practical application.  When farmers in impoverished countries grow cash crops, they can turn around and sell said crops to the developed world for a profit.  The only problem with this system is that so many impoverished farmers do this the high supply of these foods on the market keep costs low which in turn leads to a low profit margin.  The low profit margin by default prevents the farmer from buying food for his family because of the minimal return.  Lack of food causes malnutrition, aids the spread of disease, and weakens society overall.  If farmers in this region grew self sustaining crops they wouldn’t have near the amount of capital but they would have food of their own so the less money wouldn’t be near a detrimental because food needs would be met; small amounts of cash crops could be grown as well to supplement some income.  In my opinion the best way to approach this situation would be to grow enough self sustaining crops to feed the farmer and his family and then grow cash crops with the remainder of the land so more capital can come in.  If every farmer did this it would also make growing cash crops more profitable and farming a profitable profession.
                Another reason that I agree with Scouts International’s view of teaching people of Africa self sustaining agriculture is that it is not a monetary hand out.  I’m not saying that monetary hand outs are bad but look at it from the example of a Haitian or any other population that receives aid.  Monetary hand outs are short term answers to long term problems, what is the recipient of the generosity to do when the money is gone and there is still no place for them to work?  The only thing they can do at that point is to ask for more monetary assistance.  If half the wealth distributed by NGO’s was invested in manufacturing and job creation, long term solutions could be found for long term problems; economic independence is a long term goal for any country.
                In conclusion, when analyzing an organization like this I think the question one needs to ask themselves is would they support this organization?  I can honestly say that I would support Scouting International, not soley for their work in Africa but for their work across the entire world.  Scouting makes a positive impact in a lot of children’s lives and it is good to know that the organization is working to fix very serious but fixable problems in Sub-Saharan Africa.     


Monday, January 17, 2011

Japanese Expansion Under Bakufu

Did shogunate expand the borders of Japan? How? How did the Shogunate deal with outlying provinces?

Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun (1192–1199) of the Kamakura shogunate

The first question to be asked is what exactly is the shogunate?  The shogunate or bakufu as known in Japan where military rulers in Japan; as time went on their rule on the military life spread into other aspects of society giving them even more power.  By the time of their fall in the year 1867 C.E. they controlled most of Japanese society under nominal leadership from the emperor.

The title of bakufu was first used during the Heian period; the title was occasionally bestowed to a general after a successful campaign.  In the year 1185 C.E. Minamoto Yoritomo gained military control of Japan and seven years later he assumed the title of shogun and formed the first bakufu.  Over the next 680 years in Japan the power of the Bakufu would rise and fall many times; revolution constantly kept the power at a pendulum swing and the Japanese society seemed to gravitate towards the type of society in which the bakufu held power.  The bakufu came to its official end on November 9th, 1867 when Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th shogun “put his prerogatives at the emperors disposal” and then resigned.  This officially swung power from the bakufu back to the emperor for the final time.

With the history of the bakufu being laid out now the question at hand may be answered.  The first part of the question I will try to answer is that of “did the bakufu expand the borders of Japan?”  The answer to that question in my mind is no.  During this time feudal Japan was in an almost constant state of civil war.  There would be eras of peace but eventually someone in power would die, and a power vacuum would be created causing the bakufu to fight for power, not toward outward expansion.  The borders did change from time to time, when Japan was at internal peace the goal always seemed to be that of expansion.  Time and time again, the Japanese would try to expand into the Korean Peninsula and time and time again they were driven back.  The Korean Peninsula has always been a source of tension because it has always been the buffer between Japan and China.  This constant ebb and flow has also caused Korea to have puppet governments in place from time to time that operate in part under Japanese or Chinese control.  With all that being said the reason I say no to the question of did Japan expand its borders under the bakufu is because any gains made were quickly lost; significant territory was not added to Japan for any extended amount of time during this period.

The second question is” how did the bakufu deal with the outlying proveniences?”  The bakufu dealt with their subjects in an interesting manor.  The shogunate had the power to discard, annex and transform domains.  The sankin-kotai system of alternative residence required each daimyo would reside in alternate years between the han and attendance in Edo.  In their absence from Edo it was also required that they leave family as hostage until their return.  the huge expenditure sankin-kotai imposed on each han helped centralize aristocratic alliances and ensured loyalty to the Shogun as each representative doubled as a potential hostage.  These actions took by the bakufu may seem harsh, but helped keep society in check.     


Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Reflection on “Why Study History"

Why study history; that is the very question that the author asks?  Peter Sterns, the author of “Why Study History” reasons that why we study history is because “we virtually must, to gain access to the laboratory of human experience.”  Although I wouldn’t use those exact words I agree with Mr. Sterns and his view of the relevance of history.

There are several reasons as to why the study of history is relevant.  My main reason for viewing history as a master science is that history helps us understand change and how the society we live in is the way it is.  People speak, think, and do certain things in a particular way for a reason; but seldom is the question asked why we do what we do?  Some examples of this are:

  1. You better… or your name is Mud
  2. You traitor! You, you, you Benedict Arnold!
  3. Day light savings
  4. Why do we (American’s) drink coffee when the preferred drink by most of the western Anglo world is tea?

All of these things have some explanation in American history and for the majority of Americans we say or do these things with out giving any thought to it.  The first saying is attributed to the Lincoln assassination; a doctor with the last name of Mud gave medical assistance to John Wilkes Booth.  By doing this he made the name “Mud” the “Hitler” of the late 1800’s.  Since then no people with the last name of Mud have been able to accomplish any prominence for being anything other than the ancestor of one of the countries great douche bags.

While on the topic of classical American “douche bags” Benedict Arnold comes to mind.  At the beginning of the Revolutionary War Benedict Arnold was a supporter of the American colonies and the war for independence from Britain.  At some point he felt that he made the wrong decision, tried to surrender West Point to the British and when his plan was ousted he changed sides to fight with the English.  While writing this and being a native Ohioan, I wonder if Lebron will spend his after life in the same place as Mr. Arnold?

Day light savings time is not an American idea, but it is practiced by Americans and many now question, so what’s the point in this crap anyway!  It was put in place to give people more daylight to get there work done.  Now that people have electricity and farmers have realized they will just wake up at sun up whether the sun comes up at 6 or 7 in the morning; the whole concept seems to be out of date.  Although many Americans feel that the practice is a waste and more confusion than what it is worth, when the topic of dropping the change comes up people act as though blasphemy is being spouted and the sinner who speaks it should meet an untimely demise because of his pagan beliefs.

America’s choice of drink before the inception of carbonated beverages was coffee.  Coffee is still a major drink in the United States, ask anyone from Seattle, but seldom is the question asked; why not tea?  In 1773 the British imposed a tax on tea, and the colonies were not pleased with this decision.  Long story short a bunch of white dudes dressed like Indians, ruined a lot of tea, and a nation avoided taxes as usual and drank more coffee.  The rest is history and Starbucks should now be considered a patriotic institution for adopting the American dogma of “screw taxes!”

So I realize that all these things seem kind of trivial but it is an example of why history is vital.  If I never had studied history I would have never wondered why my father drinks coffee in the morning, but an Englishmen drinks tea.  The question of why American’s twice a year either show up an hour late and/or early for work.  The answer to why I have never met any Mr. or Ms. Mud in my life or why Benedict Arnold took his talents to South Beach, wait, wait; I got that one backwards.  Understanding history is how we understand ourselves; Mr. Sterns put it best so in closing I will close with another line from him:

Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change."