Legitimating the Early Modern State: A Comparative Study of Social Policies in Tudor England, Tokugawa Japan, and Qing China

English History/Historical Sociology/Historically-oriented Political Science

This project applies comparative historical analysis to examine how the concept of public interest or public goods was used to justify state power through improving social welfare in England (1550–1688), Japan (1700–1850), and China (1700–1840). It looks at how the same normative concept could also provide a rightful means for social actors such as local elites to make claims, propose advice, or even demand revisions of state policies. In contrast to scholarship that has emphasized the overriding importance of war to early modern state-making, it argues for the equal importance of domestic welfare by examining parallel developments in both Western Europe and East Asia.

The research partner will help identify, gather, and examine primary documents relating to poverty and famine relief; to litigation over water use; and to collective petitions in early modern England. The research partner will have a chance to view English political and social history from a broader comparative perspective.