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Title: Technological choices in the rise of the Meiji cotton-spinning industry c1870-1900
Author: Choi, Eugene K.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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The central theme of this thesis is the technological choices and the subsequent extraordinary growth of the cotton-spinning industry of Meiji Japan (1868-1912). The mechanisation of modern cotton manufacture relied upon British textile technologies throughout the whole Meiji period. Japan’s technological choices and collective switches to a unified standard resulted in explosive industrial progress during the last decade of the 19th century. The cotton-spinning sector grew to be the first fully and so swiftly mechanised industry. My research examines how, why, and by whom the technological choices of this industry were made. Japan was not close to the centre of industrialisations such as Britain but was a virtually alien civilisation concerning the western ideologies, science, and technologies. Every technological choice demanded new knowledge, every technological transfer necessitated westernisation, and every technological adoption required exotic western systems of manufactures. Deep disparities, in ideas, cultures, and techniques had to be addressed. The backbreaking effort and learning-by-doing practice of the Meiji entrepreneurs and engineers in the early phase of industrial mechanisation have been downplayed in many reviews of the past; instead, a number of quantitative analyses of cost savings and productivity growth before and after the mechanisation have been elaborated, justifying the ‘ideal’ technological choices, emphasising the distinct linkage between ring spinning technology and cheap local female labour. Concerning the practices of technological choices, the context was either omitted or simplified. But was it so straightforward? My examination of the vital drive of the technological choices and the sequential leap will question the past theories of the industrial history, single-mindedly focused upon economic rationalities in productivity growth. My thesis will put more stress upon the unique industrial culture, shaped by a few charismatic figures of the industry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available