In global narratives of modern legal history, Asia tends to fall short relative to Europe and the US. According to these narratives, while individuals in the West enjoyed political participation and protection, people in Japan did not, and this was due largely to the absence of a distinction between public and private law. In Public Law, Private Practice: Politics, Profit, and the Legal Profession in Nineteenth-Century Japan
(Harvard University Asia Center, 2013), Darryl E. Flaherty
upends this narrative in a fascinating story of nineteenth century legal culture in Edo Japan. Early nineteenth-century Edo society already had a vibrant legal culture of engaged private practitioners, and by the late century they had paved the way for a codification of public and private law, and a transformation in the social meaning of law in Japan. Flaherty guides readers through the spaces of private legal practice in pre-Meiji society, and the careers of individual legal advocates who practiced in the midst of a transforming legal landscape in the early Meiji period and worked to reconcile their notions of morality and law. The book traces the formation of a legal profession in the nineteenth century, the ways that associations of legal advocates paved the way for the first political parties, and the emergence of the first private universities and law schools in Japan. It is a carefully wrought story that informs both the history of Japan and the global history of law. Enjoy!