Diversification and Convergence: The development of railway technology in Meiji Japan

Visiting Scholar Talks

Nov 10, 2021 | 12:00 PM

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Speaker

Naofumi Nakamura | Professor, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2021-22

Chair/Discussant

Victor Seow | Assistant Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

Co-sponsored with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

Held via Zoom – registration required: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwvf-ivrjMuGdweKAFELzEJ0aH9u3EbygRi

This talk offers a reconsideration of the process of Japan’s railway technology development during the Meiji period while focusing on the role of railway engineers and their technical imitation. Underlying Japan’s advancement from imitation to the original design was the formation of a cadre of Japanese engineers in both the government railway and private railway companies and the manufacturing know-how cultivated through the copying of a wide variety of model locomotives. In the context of the first wave of globalization occurring around the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, the ability to freely choose from among the most advanced railway materials offered by the UK, US, and Germany contributed to the diversification of technology and the concomitant accumulation of experience. It was the convergence of this technology and know-how that bore fruit in the development of original technology in Japan. As a result, globalization and intense global competition supported technological development in Meiji Japan.

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