Through detailed comparative analysis of English and Japanese history the book explores such matters as the destruction of war, decline of famine, importance of certain drinks (especially tea), the use of human excrement and the effects of housing, clothing and bathing on human health. It also shows how the English and Japanese controled fertility through marriage and sexual patterns, biological and contraceptive factors, abortion and infanticide. It proposes a new way of linking cause and effect in history.
At one level this is a book of detection, trying to solve one of the great unsolved mysteries of history. At another it is a work of cultural translation, trying to explain the material and cultural underpinnings of East Asia (Japan) and Europe (England) through a long historical period. It thus combines history, anthropology, medicine and demography with a detailed use of contemporary sources including traveller's accounts, diaries and medical texts.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.