Book Review—1587: A Year of No Significance (2)

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Nov 25, 2019 12:36
In my previous entry, I introduced the author and the origin of the book “1587: A Year of No Significance.” Today, I’d like to share with you the main points of this fantastic book.

As I have mentioned, this book grows out of Dr.Huáng’s Ph.D. dissertation and discussions with Dr.Joseph Needham. During his Ph.D. year, he conducted extensive researches on the Ming Dynasty’s taxation and governmental finance system. Furthermore, he continued to drill down this topic while he was lecturer at the University of Michigan: he spent two years to read through the official documents of the Ming Dynasty.

After thorough and innovative researches, he concluded that the Ming Dynasty collapsed because of its backward technical system such as taxation, transportation, accounting, and financial system. For instance, there was no de facto centralised governmental financial system at the Ming Dynasty. When a county suffered from food shortage, a nearby administration unit was asked to transport a certain amount of food, let’s say rice, to the county in need. This seemed economic but had hindered the development of the transportation and central accounting system. Another example is that taxation was based on goods rather than money and the quality and quantity of goods were hard to be measured. This allowed rooms for bribes and corruption.