This biography traces the career of Fukuzawa Yukichi, who began life as a lower-level samurai and went on to become one of the leading figures in Japan as it entered the modern era and became an industrial power. The titles in the Library of World Biography series make ideal supplements for World History survey courses or other courses in the history curriculum that explore figures in history. Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each interpretative biography in this series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of world history. At the same time, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times. Fukuzawa Yukichi, one of Japan's best-known figures of the later half of the Nineteenth Century, broke the restrictive bonds of the Tokugawa samurai system and in his lifetime gained fame as a writer and interpreter of Western thought and customs, an educator who founded a famous university, a journalist and owner of an influential newspaper, a supporter of women's rights, and an entrepreneur with extensive and important economic influence.
Although he embraced much from Western thought, he never let go of his early Confucian training. Fukuzawa never entered public office, but his influence among those who did was striking. He became a revered figure of the century, and is immortalized on the ten thousand yen bill, the largest currency denomination. The story of Fukuzawa's life takes place during a pivotal period in Japanese history, as the country was becoming an industrial power and moving toward nationhood.