New book on Japanese history: The Moneylenders of Late Medieval Kyoto, by Suzanne Gay (2001)
H-JAPAN: New book announcement
TITLE: The Moneylenders of Late Medieval Kyoto
AUTHOR: Gay, Suzanne
DESCRIPTION: The Moneylenders of Late Medieval Kyoto examines the large community of sake brewer-moneylenders in Japan's capital city, focusing on their rise to prominence from the mid-1300s to 1550. Their guild tie to overlords, notably the great monastery Enryakuji, was forged early in the medieval period, giving them a protected monopoly and allowing them to flourish. Demand for credit was strong in medieval Kyoto, and brewers profitably recirculated capital for loans.
As the medieval period progressed, the brewer-lenders came into their own. While maintaining overlord ties, they engaged in activities that brought them into close contact with every segment of Kyoto's population. The more socially prominent brewers served as tax agents for religious institutions, the shogunate, and the imperial court, and were
actively involved in a range of cultural pursuits including tea and linked verse.
Although the merchants themselves left only the faintest record, Suzanne Gay has fully and convincingly depicted this important group of medieval commoners.
AUTHORBIO: Suzanne Gay is associate professor of East Asian studies at Oberlin College.
REVIEW: "In this impressive work, Suzanne Gay presents a remarkably fluid narrative, piecing together a mosaic portrait from fragments of evidence from many sources. She has brilliantly utilized primary sources ranging from the Ninagawake-monjo, to the various laws and decrees of the Muromachi bakufu, to medieval literature, folk tales, and art as a means of distilling out the verifiable data that survives on the medieval moneylenders. In addition, she provides an interesting and convincing reconstruction of their place in the society and cultural life of medieval Kyoto." --William B. Hauser, University of Rochester.
SUBJECT: Asia; Japan; history; sociology
PUBLISHER: University of Hawai‘i Press
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