Wheat Cultivation and the Princely Estates of Shandong in Late Ming China

Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:50 PM
Room 111 (Hynes Convention Center)
Christopher Stephen Agnew , University of Dayton, Dayton, OH
This paper will examine the relationship between wheat cultivation and the administration of Ming princely estates in China’s Shandong province beginning in the fifteenth century.  Ming princes were among the largest landowners in China, and their palaces stood in spatial and political tension with the offices of the territorial bureaucracy of the state.  Through an examination of court records, local gazetteers, and early Qing dynasty surveys of seized estates, I will explain how the cultivation and sale of wheat, the most important agricultural product in Shandong province, impacted the administration of the estates of the Princes of Lu and De. The construction of transportation infrastructure, particularly the construction of canals and reservoirs for inland transport, enabled Ming princes to reorient agricultural production on their estates to supply the markets and merchants along these waterways.  This had two relevant impacts on the agricultural economy of Shandong.  First, it led to the introduction of new wheat cultivation techniques in the mid-Ming that made available more surplus wheat for commercial transactions.  Second, it encouraged a militarization of the countryside as the princely estates sought to expand acreage, often by force.  The economic boon of the canal trade laid the basis for the political and military empowerment of Shandong princely estates, which in turn contributed to the collapse of Ming state apparatus.
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