British Trade at Hakodate during the Boshin War | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


The Boshin War (1868-69) fought between loyalists to the Tokugawa Shogunate and an alliance of domains rallying around the Japanese emperor was a major turning point in Japanese history. Though foreign powers, Britain included, remained officially neutral during the larger part of this civil conflict, several foreign actors contradicted this position. Existing literature and popular histories assume that British actors were no exception and they are suspected to have favored the Imperial forces against the Tokugawa Shogunate despite official neutrality. Utilizing the British consular reports from Hakodate, I examine the activities of British merchants during the later stages of the Boshin War. Hakodate, an open port which switched hands several times during the conflict, was occupied for seven months by the so-called ‘Ezo Republic’ which offered the final resistance to new Meiji regime. During this occupation, the British consulate and British traders continued to operate and the sources they produced provide an on-the-ground insight into the reality of British trade and neutrality. I argue that British were actively involved in the conflict by the sales of weapons and other key military supplies, as well as in conveying troops for both sides. These risky business activities contradicted the official policy of neutrality but were tolerated by the consular authorities. This marked the peak in Hakodate’s foreign trade, at least for British merchants.


Article metrics loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error