Abstract

For more than three decades now, scholars have been debating whether or not a “general crisis” occurred in European social, economic, and political history during the seventeenth century. The debate is far from over, but one of its happy side effects has been that students of seventeenth-century Spain, France, or England now are rarely satisfied to study their chosen countries in total isolation. Indeed, it is generally agreed that many aspects of European history during the early-modern period need to be studied from an international perspective in order to be understood fully.

The author maintains that the same is true for early-modern China and Japan. Although they had radically different economic, social, and political systems, the Ming dynasty and Tokugawa shogunate experienced a number of problems during the midseventeenth century that were at once interrelated and strikingly similar to those occurring in other parts of the world at the same time.

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