The Poetry of Statistics

Kären Wigen

in A Malleable Map

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780520259188
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945807 | DOI:
The Poetry of Statistics

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The dawn of statistics marked the end of the gazetteer as a tool of government in many ways. Statistical Yearbooks were arguably the most important medium of geographical description for the Meiji prefectures. They cumulatively ran to hundreds of thousands of pages, bristling with quantitative information arranged in tabular form from the first slim handbooks of the 1870s to the bulky abstracts of later decades. These sources are read for their numbers, containing data that help historians trace the ins and outs of Japan's industrial transformation. Just as the kuniezu can be picked apart to reveal the spatial disposition of resources under the Tokugawa shogunate, so prefectural yearbooks can be stored for a narrative about how those resources were redirected under its successor regime. The Home Ministry in 1847 decided to distribute free fruit tree saplings to all the prefectures in Japan, paying the costs of transportation in exchange for subsequent reports on their success.

Keywords: statistics; Meiji; abstracts; kuniezu; shogunate

Chapter.  10296 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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