Germany and Japan

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Industrialization of Germany and Japan

Germany and Japan were part of the second wave of modernizing nations. They did not start industrializing until the second half of the nineteenth century. It was nearly a century after the French revolution and the beginning of British industrialization. They did have an advantage in being the second wave, for one they could learn from the technologies and techniques that were used in Europe before them and implement these systems into their own industries. Germany and Japan did not take into account the unknown problems and costs that comes with modernization. Suddenly large amounts of capital and investment were needed to undertake modernization and this led to the development of a central banking system. Modern countries were also expected to sustain high military expenditures and nationalism rose to levels it had never seen before. The Darwinian concept of “struggle for survival” became a metaphor for foreign relation. Despite the odds Germany and Japan did complete their new nation states in less than fifty years, half the time it took Britain, France or the United States. Through these struggles I am wondering did industrialization help Germany and Japan become strong unified states or did it cause more problems than it solved? I shall examine documents and dive into this topic further.

Conditions had grown more suitable for industrialization to happen in Germany by the 1830’s. Settled political conditions after the Napoleonic wars had led to population increase and higher consumer demand. This also gave the industries a larger work force. In addition to this Germany had large coal reserves and had the logistics to move this energy around. Germany saw an improved network of rails, canals and roads. This allowed them to move their goods to large urban centres more easily. In 1840, only 400 miles of rail were in existence in the German territories, but his number soared from 3,500 miles in 1850 and more than 11,150 in 1870. Germany did not exist as a political entity in the first half of the nineteenth century; instead Germany was broken up into thirty separate states. In 1870 France was considered the Germans greatest enemy and the Franco- Prussian war was started. It was a good way to arouse the German interest in unification. A1fter the defeat of the French Bismarck proclaimed the Prussian king Wilhelm II, the Kaiser, or emperor of the German Empire. Bismarck was a very autocratic ruler and decided to build a modern army and navy that would make Germany the most powerful military power of the day. This power required industrialization. Germany changed from an agrarian to an industrial economy within the years from 1871 to 1895. Germany also developed the same system of private capitalism as in England. Japan began its modernization as a unified state. As cities grew in size and wealth, a new class of merchants and manufacturers emerged. This was a problem because they did not fit within the hierarchy of the Japanese feudal system, and they started to acquire much of the country wealth. The shogunate tried to stifle them and refused to adapt to the change in the outside world. The meiji leaders knew that they had to become a stronger nation to defend Japan.4 This meant a better political system, increased military might and Industrialization. The high start-up cost dissuaded traditional merchants from modernizing. So the state decided to build pilot industries to show the merchants its feasibility. They focused heavily on strategic industries such as steel foundries and silk mills. The high costs nearly bankrupted the regime and as a result the industries were sold off at great discount to private financial groups or zaibatsu. Many...
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