Commodore Perryâ s 1853 Japanese Expedition: How Whaling Influenced the Event that Revolutionized Japan
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In July 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry illegally entered Tokyo Bay with a fleet of four American warships and challenged Japanâ s isolationist position towards the United States. This radical diplomatic effort concluded with a return voyage a year later and ended Japanâ s self-imposed isolation from the Western world. Historians, in an attempt to explain the motivations behind Perryâ s voyage, cite an American commercial desire for Chinese trade as the main reason behind the Japanese Expeditionâ s dispatch. This historical perspective ignores the important economic and political influence the whaling industry played in spurring American politicians to confront Japanese isolationism. It is incorrect to assert that whaling, and not Americaâ s desire to gain access to China, was the main reason behind the 1853 Japanese Expedition. This paperâ s objective is to understand how whaling influenced Perryâ s mission. It should be read as a supplement to current historical scholarship concerning Americaâ s decision to send a naval force into Japanese waters.
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