In the latter-half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, Japan underwent two major shifts in political control. In the 1910s, the power of the oligarchy was eclipsed by that of a larger group of professional politicians; in the 1930s, the focus of power shifted again, this time to a set of independent military leaders. In this book, Ramseyer and Rosenbluth examine a key question of modern Japanese politics: why the Meiji oligarchs were unable to design institutions capable of protecting their power. The authors question why the oligarchs chose the political institutions they did, and what the consequences of those choices were for Japan's political competition, economic development, and diplomatic relations. Indeed, they argue, it was the oligarchs' very inability to agree among themselves on how to rule that prompted them to cut the military loose from civilian control - a decision that was to have disastrous consequences not only for Japan but for the rest of the world.