The Journal of Asian Studies

Published by Duke University Press

Online ISSN: 1752-0401


Print ISSN: 0021-9118


Food Supply and Population Growth in Southwest China, 1250-1850
  • Article

February 1982


63 Reads

James J. Lee
Between 1250 and 1850 the population of Southwest China increased from 3 to 20 million people. In this essay, the author delineates two periods of population growth—a small one from 1250 to 1600 and a large one from 1700 to 1850—and relates their spatial and temporal characteristics to agricultural production. His conclusions challenge the popular assumption that frontier populations in China grew because of improved agricultural techniques or increased arable land. In the Southwest, between 1250 and 1600, population doubled because of the government investment in agriculture, but, between 1700 and 1850, population quadrupled because of the development of local mining industry. In Qing China, as elsewhere in the early modern world, major increases in population were often a consequence of early industrialization.

Death in India, 1871-1921

September 1973


64 Reads

Historians frequently have assumed that India's economic progress was held back in the late nineteenth century by a massive growth in population. India actually had a relatively low rate of population expansion until the 1920's. The birth rate was among the world's largest, but the death rate was extremely high also, and mortality rates increased between 1871 and 1921. Death was class-oriented; poor and lower-caste Indians succumbed in far greater proportions than did prosperous Hindus, Muslims, Parsees or Europeans. The economic, social, and environmental changes associated with modernization appear initially to have facilitated the spread of epidemics and the increase in death rates. Irrigation canals often caused water-logging of the soil and stimulated malaria. Railways, roads, and river embankments disrupted natural water flows and furthered dysentery, cholera, and malaria. Urban crowding and poor city planning helped promote plague, tuberculosis, and other diseases. Since high mortality rates were linked to a considerable extent with economic conditions, slow population growth should be viewed more as a reflection than a cause of India's lack of dramatic economic progress.

Drugs, Consumption, and Supply in Asia: The Case of Cocaine in Colonial India, c. 1900–c. 1930

June 2007


90 Reads

This article examines the market for cocaine in India during the early twentieth century and the efforts of the colonial state to control it. The British authorities issued regulations to prohibit the drug's use as early as 1900, and yet by the start of World War I, cocaine's appeal had become socially diverse and geographically wide. This account of a significant market for a powerful new drug suggests that Indian society was able to rapidly develop a demand for such products even when the colonial state had no part in their introduction. Indians used these new products in complex ways- as medicines, as tonics, and as intoxicants, albeit through the localized medium of the everyday paan leaf. The study points to a reconsideration of a number of debates about the history of drugs and modern medicines in Asia.

Policing the Savage: Segregation, Labor and State Medicine in the Andamans

August 1999


31 Reads

T he penal colony that the british established in the Andaman Islands at the end of the 1850s was originally intended as a place of permanent exile for a particular class of Indian criminals. These offenders had, for the most part, been convicted by special tribunals in connection with the Indian rebellions of 1857–58. As the British vision of rehabilitation in the Andamans evolved, the former rebels were joined in the islands by men and women convicted under the Indian Penal Code. In the islands, transported criminals were subjected to various techniques of physical, spatial, occupational, and political discipline (Sen 1998). The slow transition from a convicted criminal to a prisoner in a chain gang, to employment as a Self-Supporter or a convict officer in the service of the prison regime, to life as a free settler in a penal colony was in effect a process by which the state sought to transform the criminal classes of colonial India—the disloyal, the idle, the elusive and the disorderly—into loyal, orderly, and governable subjects.

Rethinking the History of Medicine in Asia: Hakim Mohammed Said and the Society for the Promotion of Eastern Medicine

December 2008


78 Reads

In 1963 Hakim Mohammed Said took a Pakistani delegation from the Society for the Promotion of Eastern Medicine on a monthlong trip to China to meet with and learn from practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This essay focuses on Said's interpretation of the history of medicine in Asia, which was inspired by his trip and informed by a broad, global understanding of how Unani medicine developed from the eighth century to the present. Said's advocacy of Eastern Medicine provides a way to think about the history of medicine and medical revitalization that is not limited by colonial, postcolonial, or nationalist assumptions and priorities.

A Question of Breeding: Zootechny and Colonial Attitudes toward the Tropical Environment in the Late Nineteenth-Century Philippines
  • Article
  • Full-text available

February 2001


195 Reads

Greg Bankoff's article focuses on horses in the Philippines and the responses of the colonial state to what it regarded as the degeneration of equine bloodlines in that tropical climate. He suggests ways in which Spaniards (and Europeans more generally) in the nineteenth century began to regard the tropics as hostile to non- indigenous species, human as well as animal. He argues that animal breeding provides a means of understanding the development of science and its close relationship to imperial venture in the late nineteeth century, a relationship too often overlooked by historians.

Guarding Beijing's Food Security in the Qing Dynasty: State, Market, and Police

November 1999


26 Reads

Lillian M. Li and Alison Dray-Novey examine the different strategies the Qing state employed to ensure the food supply of Beijing in order to preserve the security of the capital. The authors show that the state relied on a variety of institutional mechanisms to supply the different groups comprising the capital's population and that it was particularly successful during the eighteenth century. They also draw instructive comparisons between Qing efforts to provision Beijing and the policies and methods used in Paris and Edo.

Commercial growth and environmental change in early modern Japan: Hachinohe's wild boar famine

February 2001


86 Reads

Brett L. Walker's article explores a famine in Hachinohe, Japan, in the eighteenth century and the ways in which changing agricultural patterns precipitated conditions where wild boars and the human population were in direct competition with one another for food. He reminds us that historians need to be alert to the environment as an historical actor. He concludes by suggesting that in eighteenth- century Japan, in times of crisis, domains were forced to rely on their own resources, with very little outside help.

Genesis of Marriage among the Moso and Empire-Building in Late Imperial China

February 2001


75 Reads

Chuan-Kang Shih's article explores the origins of Chinese-style marriage among the Moso, a people who lived in southwestern China. When Moso areas were incorporated into the Yuan empire in the thirteenth century, local chieftains brought Chinese-style marriage into Moso society. But for ordinary Moso, retaining matrilineal descent and a pattern of visiting sexual union called tisese was (and remains) an important component of ethnic identity. Shih traces the introduction of the Chinese institution of marriage and untangles issues of identity and cultural influence across the Chinese ethnic landscape.

The Marginalization of a Dalit Martial Race in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Western India

February 2001


352 Reads

Repeatedly in indian recruitment handbooks and army histories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, self-sufficiency, physical and moral resilience, orderliness and hard work, fighting tenacity, and above all, a sense of courage and loyalty were the characteristics attributed to the Indian martial races. Thus Major-General George MacMunn wrote of the Sikhs: As a fighting man his slow wit and dogged courage give him many of the characteristics of the British soldier at his best.

Crisis Mortality in the Nineteenth Century Philippines: Data from Parish Records

February 1978


194 Reads

This paper describes mortality patterns across forty localities in the nineteenth century Philippines and suggests an interpretation of these patterns. Burial records from the Catholic church archives of the localities (parishes) are combined with local population estimates to obtain local mortality levels and trends over time, seasonal variations in mortality, and, especially, episodes of abnormal or “crisis” mortality. It is observed that the level of mortality increased as the nineteenth century progressed, that this was due in large part to an increase in the intensity and frequency of crisis mortality, and that these episodes occurred over time and across the localities in a patterned fashion. Among the underlying causes explored are possible declines in the level of living among the peasantry resulting from the nineteenth century commercialization of Philippine agriculture.

Concepts of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infancy in Ch'ing Dynasty China

February 1987


50 Reads

This is a study of the classical medical norms governing reproduction as found in China in the late imperial era (1600-1900). The author explores how interpretations of biological processes shaped Chinese cultural understanding of the status of women, early child development, and the meaning of sexuality; as well as how these influenced the social organization of pregnancy and childbirth. Drawing on evidence from contemporary popular handbooks on fu k'o (medicine for women) and erh k'o (medicine for children), the author concludes that biological models of female gender were two-sided, labeling women as the dependent "sickly sex" and also as a source of pollution in the form of disease. In this way they were bound to their children as both nurturing creators and a toxic source of childhood sickness and death. These symbolic models legitimized Confucian paternalism, while revealing misogynistic fears of female power. Through them, medicine acted as an important ideological force for the support of the Confucian family system.

Peking Man and the Politics of Paleoanthropological Nationalism in China

February 2001


344 Reads

Barry Sautman discusses debates about paleoanthropology and their political and cultural implications in China. A substantial body of Chinese scientific opinion disputes the "out of Africa" hypothesis, which suggests that homo sapiens evolved in Africa one to two hundred thousand years ago. These scientists argue instead that humans originated in China. Sautman's essay is rich with implications for connections between science and nationalism, and his invocation of Piltdown Man ("the first Englishman") reminds us that the conjuncture between paleoanthropology and nationalism is not particular to China.

Science and Medicine in Imperial China—The State of the Field

February 1988


43 Reads

Sinology and the history of science have changed practically beyond recognition in the past half-century. Both have become academic specialisms, with their own departments, journals, and professional societies. Both have moved off in new directions, drawing on the tools and insights of several disciplines. Although some sinologists still honor no ambition beyond explicating primary texts, on many of the field's frontiers philology is no more than a tool. Similarly, many technical historians now explore issues for which anthropology or systems analysis is as indispensable as traditional historiography.

Embroidering the Past: Phulkari Textiles and Gendered Work as “Tradition” and “Heritage” in Colonial and Contemporary Punjab

May 1999


138 Reads

Michelle Maskiell locates her analysis of the production, exchange, and consumption of phuzlkaris (embroidered textiles) in colonial and postcolonial Punjab within the context of the global economy and current methodological debates about the utility of cultural studies versus political economy approaches. She shows how the increasing commercialization of the regional economy influenced material culture and the gendered division of labor as well as how it impinged on issues of women's agency and the production and marketing of phulkaris in postindependence India and Pakistan.

Of Germs, Public Hygiene, and the Healthy Body: The Making of the Medicalizing State in Thailand

June 2007


98 Reads

The historical study of Western medicine in nineteenth-century Siam has emphasized the dichotomy between Western medicine and traditional Thai medical practice. The former is often represented as a monolith, and the epistemological transformation of Western medicine during the nineteenth century is glossed over without sufficient attention. Pasteurian medicine, especially the idea of germs, was introduced to Siam by the American missionary Dan Beach Bradley. Its introduction spurred a process of negotiation with both pre-Pasteurian Western and traditional Thai medicine. In its pre-Pasteurian and Pasteurian variants, Western medicine was constituted as a new medical practice and disciplinary regime in Siam. As a discursive instrument of state hegemony, the ideas, structures, policies, and institutions of Western medicine furthered the understanding and management of virulent epidemics, the institution of the sanitary system, the shaping of new concepts of population and a healthy workforce, and not least, the framing of a medicalizing project to police people's bodies pursued by the Thai state in the 1930s.

Critical Methods in Tibetan Medical Histories

June 2007


41 Reads

This paper addresses the development of scholastic medical traditions in Tibet through an extension of lists of physicians. I consider the debates that such lists and their accompanying narratives engender for Tibetan historians and reflect on the contributions they make to the identity of the medical tradition. By examining the structure and content of classificatory methods in medical histories, I argue that temporally organized lists document the place of medicine across time, geographically organized lists document the reach of medical knowledge across space, and thematically organized lists document the intertwining of medical knowledge and skill with other aspects of intellectual and civil life. In making these lists, medical historians paint a portrait of the Tibetan medical tradition that evokes connections to Buddhism and the strength and cosmopolitanism of the imperial period. Medical histories thus emphasize a picture of Tibet in the broader context of Asia- a Tibet whose empire lives on culturally or intellectually, if not militarily.

The Spiral of Suicide and Social Change in Sri Lanka

February 1985


20 Reads

The suicide rate in Sri Lanka tripled between 1955 and 1974, soaring from 6.9 to 22.1 per 100,000 population. Sharp increases were recorded for both sexes, most age groups, and all of the nation's twenty-two districts. The incidence of suicide was greatest in the age range of 15 to 29 years. High rates consistently appeared in the districts of the northeast that either contained local majorities of the Sri Lanka Tamil ethnic minority or experienced rapid population growth due to heavy in-migration. The rising suicide rate may be related to the growing competition for education and careers, high unemployment, internal migration, and the increasing age at marriage, all of which contribute to the fundamental dislocation of a once more stable and predictable society.

Family, Fields, and Ancestors: Constancy and Change in China's Social and Economic History, 1550-1949

March 2011


257 Reads

This is the first book to synthesize and make available important recent research on China's social and economic history, offering a completely new perspective on the four centuries from the Ming Dynasty to the Communist revolution. Drawing on a wide array of sources, the author clarifies the complexities of Chinese society, covering a wide range of topics from population trends, class structure, and religion to agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing.

An Economic History of the Silk Industry, 1830–1930

May 1998


165 Reads

An Economic History of the Silk Industry, 1830–1930, first published in 1997, is an ambitious historical analysis of the development of a major commodity. Dr Federico examines the rapid growth of the world silk industry from the early nineteenth century to the eve of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Silk production grew as a result of Western industrialisation, which in turn brought about increased incomes and thus increased demand for silk products. The author documents the changes in methods of production and the technical progress that enabled the silk industry to cope with this new influx in demand. Dr Federico then discusses the significant changes in the geographical distribution of world output that accompanied this growth. In conclusion, Federico points out that silk did indeed becomes the first example of a Japanese success story on the world market, Italy and China both losing their markets due to Japan’s large agricultural supply of raw material (cocoons) and its adroitness in importing and adopting Western technology.

Table 1: Forced Deliveries of Stalk Paddy in Central Java, 1942-1946 ─────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── 
Figure 2: Available Calories in Java, 1940-1950 (Kcal per Capita per Day)
Figure 3: Available Protein in Java, 1940-1950 (Grams per Capita per Day)
Figure 4: Available Calories from Six Main Staple Crops in Java, 1941-1946 (Kcal per Capita per Day)
Table 5 : Irrigated Area under Rice in Java, 1946 (thousand hectares) ───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────


Food Supply in Java during War and Decolonisation, 1940-1950

January 2008


1,132 Reads

It is readily assumed that the average level of living in Indonesia deteriorated during the hectic period 1940-1950. Much of the evidence on economic change during this period is anecdotal. It is difficult to distil a general impression from it. Per capita food consumption is an important indicator of the average standard of living. For that reason this paper monitors the changes in food production, distribution and supply in the densely populated core island of Java in Indonesia. Food supply was adequate in Indonesia when the Japanese attack on the country started in 1941. During 1944-1948 per capita food supply was at a very low level in Java. In the years 1943-1945 the low level was caused by the restrictions imposed by the Japanese authorities on the domestic trade of food products, and by the coercive system of purchasing rice for distribution. Both created disincentives for farmers to produce a food surplus. Similar reasons explain the situation during the years 1946-1948. Moreover, the controversy between the returning colonial government and the government of the nationalist Republic of Indonesia impeded free shipments of food between the food deficient urban areas and the food producing rural areas. Food supply recovered during 1948-1950, with the economic re-integration of most of Indonesia.

Japan's Economic Diplomacy with China, 1945-1978

May 2000


58 Reads

This book is a comprehensive study on Japan's postwar relations with China up until the end of the 1970s, i.e. prior to Deng Xiaopin's reform and open-door policies. The study is particularly strong on the detailed account of Japan's deep economic involvement with China initiated by a complex group of pro-China Japanese. This is an important aspect of continuity in Sino-Japanese relations for three decades despite several profound fluctuations in political relations, the 1972 diplomatic normalization among others. The study also stands out in analytically placing this unique aspect of the postwar history of Sino-Japanese relations in an overall political context of Japanese diplomacy, depicting its structure as a combination of compliance, autonomy, and independence policy courses.

The Transition to Export-led Growth in South Korea: 1954–1966

January 1990


3,457 Reads

In analyzing the turning point in Korea's transition in the early 1960s from a strategy of import substitution to one of export-oriented industrial growth, the authors examine not just the economics of change but the politics of economic policy and reform - the incentives facing state and business elites and the institutional context in which they operated. Their analysis shows that the transition to export-led growth in South Korea was a product of the interplay of four factors: pressure from the United States; the dominance of the executive branch; institutional reform within the bureaucracy; and a restructuring of relations between the state and business. Conclusions are drawn about the role of outside pressure in policy reform, about the importance to reform administrative capability and organization, and about the politics of policy change.

Economic Theories in China, 1979–1988

November 1993


15 Reads

In China, the decade 1989–1988 featured an unprecedented willingness to depart from the traditional dogmatic interpretations of socialism and to enter into a discourse aimed at promoting economic reforms and development. Robert C. Hsu systematically explores the substance and logic of the evolution of the most vital economic-reform theories prevalent in China during those years (before the recent slow-down). He also examines and assesses the delicate interaction between these theories and the practical policies of the Chinese government. Hsu’s analysis covers the debates over exactly how to combine the market mechanism with socialist planning. Chinese economists argued about how to diversify the ownership system, how to implement price-wage reforms, how to invigorate state-owned enterprises and make them more efficient, and how to develop China’s agriculture, industry and foreign trade. Though Hsu critically dissects the diversity of views and describes the shortcomings which will affect future economic policies and theories, his mood is primarily an affirmation of the new dynamic age of China’s economics.

Top-cited authors