Until recent times, and to a certain extent, even at the present, most historians have spoken of the movements which led to the Meiji Restoration as lower samurai movements. It is my aim in this article to show that they were not. First, negatively, I hope to show by a consideration of what is meant by the term “lower samurai” and by the application of this to the Chōshū scene that the early Restoration movement or sonō jōi (Honor the Emperor, Expel the Barbarian) movement cannot be described as a lower samurai movement. Second, positively, I will attempt an alternate characterization in terms of the different groups participating in this movement in Chōshū from its inception in 1858 until its culmination in the Chōshū Civil War in 1865.

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