Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan

Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan

Ann Bowman Jannetta
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvwh6
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  • Book Info
    Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan
    Book Description:

    Ann Jannetta suggests that Japan's geography and isolation from major world trade routes provided a cordon sanitaire that prevented the worst diseases of the early modern world from penetrating the country before the mid-nineteenth century. Her argument is based on the medical literature on epidemic diseases, on previously unknown evidence in Buddhist temple registers, and on rich documentary evidence from contemporary observers in Japan.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5837-8
    Subjects: History, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-15)

    Malthus suggested that epidemic diseases played an important role in limiting population growth in preindustrial societies.¹ Modern-day microbiologists agree with Malthus: “From the beginnings of agriculture and urbanization till well into the present century infectious disease was the major overall cause of human mortality and the most important stabilizer of population levels.”²

    Malthus believed that a population would grow until it reached the limit of its resources. A society that had reached “Malthusian” limits would experience periods of population growth interrupted by sharp increases in mortality. “Positive” checks in the form of epidemics, famine, and war would intervene and reduce...

  8. CHAPTER II EPIDEMIC DISEASES AND HUMAN POPULATIONS
    (pp. 16-32)

    Historians who study epidemics are primarily concerned with questions of cause and effect, of change over time, and of regional and cultural variation An investigation of these concerns requires an understanding of the characteristics of disease-causing organisms, the transmission of these organisms, the response of human populations, and the influence of environmental factors on the incidence of disease m human societies Therefore, before examining the effects of epidemic disease on mortality in early modern Japan, it is necessary to consider the dynamic relationships that exist between disease-causing organisms and human populations In this chapter, the characteristics of disease-causing organisms and...

  9. CHAPTER III THE JAPANESE SOURCES
    (pp. 33-60)

    The quality of source materials is perhaps the most important factor in any investigation of past events. The limitations of premodern sources are especially great, and they become greater as one goes back in time. The quality of source materials varies in different periods, not only because the capacity to keep records and the motivation for keeping them differ from time to time, but also because many records have simply not survived. Gaps in the records cause special problems when one tries to trace the history of epidemic diseases because of the significance of the intervals between epidemics. The severity...

  10. CHAPTER IV SMALLPOX: THE MOST TERRIBLE MINISTER OF DEATH
    (pp. 61-107)

    For much of human history smallpox has devastated populations throughout the world.¹ The origins of smallpox remain obscure, but the evidence is convincing that this disease afflicted all of the ancient civilizations: Egyptian mummies three thousand years old bear pock-marks that strongly resemble the scars left by smallpox, and the best written evidence today suggests smallpox reached India well before A.D. 400, China around 250 B.C., and Greece around 430 B.C.² Galen’s account of the Antonine plague, which devastated Rome in the second half of the second century A.D., is regarded as “the earliest substantive evidence of smallpox in Europe....

  11. CHAPTER V MEASLES: AN EPIDEMIOLOGICAL PUZZLE
    (pp. 108-144)

    The history of measles in Japan is remarkably different from that of smallpox, and different also from the history of measles in Europe.¹ By the sixteenth century, measles was a well-known epidemic disease in Europe.² Its importance before this time is uncertain, because measles was often confused with smallpox in early accounts of the disease.³ But by the early seventeenth century, measles deaths were being recorded in London every year,⁴ and by the end of the eighteenth century, measles epidemics were occurring in England in about one out of three years.⁵ At about this same time, measles epidemics occurred at...

  12. CHAPTER VI DYSENTERY AND CHOLERA: EARLY AND LATE ARRIVALS
    (pp. 145-172)

    Early in the nineteenth century a severe enteric infection that had previously been confined to India broke upon the world scene.¹ The disease was known as “Asiatic” cholera, and it spread in great epidemic waves throughout all the major regions of the world. Before this time, “cholera” was simply a common name for gastroenteritis: it was used in the West to mean dysentery and other diarrheal diseases. Cholera infantum, for example, was a diarrheal disease in the United States that caused high mortality among young children at the end of the nineteenth century.

    Enteric diseases were an important cause of...

  13. CHAPTER VII EPIDEMICS AND FAMINE
    (pp. 173-187)

    The problem of distinguishing subsistence crises from disease crises is as troublesome for those using Japanese sources as for those who use the sources of other premodern societies. The basic problem is two-fold: 1) people who suffer from severe malnutrition may actually die of infection, or they may exhibit symptoms similar to those caused by certain acute infectious diseases; and 2) the mortality rate from some infectious diseases may be higher among people who are malnourished. However, the fundamental nature of a mortality crisis can often be determined by a careful examination of the descriptive sources. In many cases the...

  14. CHAPTER VIII CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 188-208)

    This book has reviewed the history of the most prominent epidemic diseases of the Tokugawa period. These diseases—smallpox, measles, dysentery, and cholera—were chosen because they were important epidemic diseases in all urbanized societies of the premodern world, and because there is an excellent clinical and historical literature that pertains to them. Every effort has been made to interpret the Japanese sources and death records in terms of the unique characteristics of these diseases. The Japanese sources have proved more than adequate to the task, and each of the diseases studied emerges from the records with its distinctive personality...

  15. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 209-210)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 211-218)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 219-224)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)