Japan’s Medieval Population: Famine, Fertility, and Warfare in a Transformative Age, by William Wayne Farris, charts a course through never-before-surveyed historical territory: Japan’s medieval population, a topic so challenging that neither Japanese nor foreign scholars have investigated it in a comprehensive way. And yet, demography is an invaluable approach to the past because it provides a way—often the only way—to study the mass of people who did not belong to the political or religious elite. By synthesizing a vast cache of primary and secondary sources, Farris constructs an important analysis of Japan’s population from 1150 to 1600 and considers social and economic developments that were life and death issues for ordinary Japanese.
“In Japan’s Medieval Population, Farris, true to form, asks questions that are relevant and essential for a broader understanding of Japanese society but also extremely challenging to answer. . . . There can be little doubt that [this] study fills an important void in English-language scholarship on pre-Tokugawa Japan. . . . Farris deserves accolades for taking on what is possibly the most challenging task for historians: asking the broader synthesizing questions for which the sources do not provide any readily available answers.” —Journal of Japanese Studies
August 2009 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3424-1 / $25.00 (PAPER)