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What was the economic basis of the samurai's power?

The economic basis of the samurai's power was primarily land ownership and the agricultural produce it yielded.

The samurai, a warrior class that emerged in Japan during the 12th century, were initially landowners who provided military service to their feudal lords in exchange for protection and the right to cultivate land. This land ownership formed the economic basis of their power. The samurai class was not a monolithic entity, and the extent of their landholdings varied greatly. Some samurai were powerful daimyo (feudal lords) who controlled vast territories, while others were lesser vassals with more modest holdings.

The samurai's power was also tied to the agricultural economy. They collected rents from the peasants who worked their lands, and these rents were often paid in rice, the staple crop of Japan. This system allowed the samurai to amass wealth without engaging in trade or manual labour, which were considered beneath their warrior status. The samurai's economic power was thus directly linked to their control over the land and its productive capacity.

Over time, the economic basis of the samurai's power began to shift. During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa shogunate implemented a series of land surveys and tax reforms that effectively nationalised the land. The samurai were transformed from landowners into salaried bureaucrats, paid in stipends of rice by the shogunate. This change was intended to centralise power in the hands of the shogun and reduce the potential for rebellion among the daimyo.

However, this shift also had the unintended consequence of eroding the economic power of the samurai class. As the economy of Japan became more monetised, the value of the samurai's rice stipends declined. Many samurai fell into debt, and some were even forced to take up trades or sell their status. By the end of the Edo period, the samurai's economic power had been significantly diminished, setting the stage for the social upheavals of the Meiji Restoration.

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