Ii Naosuke (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Ii was a conservative but pragmatic defender of the Tokugawa family’s rule (bakufu) in nineteenth century Japan. While he temporarily slowed the decline of the bakufu, his policies in the long run were ineffective in dealing with either the growing domestic hostility toward the shogun or the Western pressures open Japan to full participation in world trade and politics.
Ii Naosuke was born into the very large family of the domain (han) lord (daimyo) of Hikone, in central Japan. As the fourteenth son, he had little prospect of a major political career, since hereditary succession determined domain leadership. Lacking favorable prospects within the domain’s administration, he realistically could expect only that his father would secure his fortunes by arranging his adoption into a suitable family. A common practice in Japan, adoption was a principal means of solidifying a family’s political and military ties to other important families. His limited expectations were further restricted by the death of his mother when he was only five years old. Her passing left him without an adult to argue that he might be uniquely suited to participate in domain administration. It was largely chance that ultimately saved Ii from sharing with many of his elder brothers this fate as an adoptee and provided him with the opportunity to play a leading role in the national politics and diplomacy of a...
(The entire section is 2224 words.)
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