The Japan Society

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ARCHIVED ONLINE LECTURE - British Engagement with Japan, 1854-1922 - with Antony Best

Monday 18 January 2021 / 6:45pm
ONLINE LECTURE - British Engagement with Japan, 1854-1922 - with Antony Best

Monday 18 January 2021
6.45pm (GMT)
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Online Event
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The activities of the Japan Society are made possible thanks to the support of its members. This event is free of charge and open to all. We realise that this is a difficult time for many people. However, if you are planning to attend and do not have a membership subscription as an individual or through your employer, please consider making a donation. You can find details of membership and how to join the Japan Society community here.

This talk, which draws on the findings in my recent book, is designed to provide an overview of the trajectory of Britain’s relations with Japan since their modern opening in 1854 until the end of the alliance in 1922. In particular, it seeks to explain why in 1902 it proved possible for the British government to sign an alliance with Japan. On the surface, this might appear obvious in that realpolitik considerations drove the two countries together to resist Russian expansion in North-East Asia. However, if one considers that this pact was concluded during an era when some in the West were attracted by ‘Yellow Peril’ thinking, it is important to understand why the British government felt that it could have faith in Japan as an ally and why it believed that an alliance that traversed the colour-line would be acceptable to the British public.

The talk will, accordingly, seek to explain how British thinking towards Japan during the late nineteenth century moved through a distinct number of phases, beginning with ‘interest’, moving on to ‘respect’ which was then followed by ‘admiration’, and eventually culminating in 1900 and the Boxer War with the creation of ‘trust’. 

Antony Best is Associate Professor of International History at the London School of Economics. His most recent single-authored book is British Engagement with Japan, 1854-1922: The Origins and Course of an Unlikely Alliance (Routledge, 2021). His other books are Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbor: Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936-1941, (Routledge, 1995) and British Intelligence and the Japanese Challenge in Asia, 1914-1941 (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002). He has co-authored [with Jussi Hanhimaki, Joe Maiolo and Kirsten E. Schulze] International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, 3rd edition (Routledge, 2015) and [with Peter Kornicki and Hugh Cortazzi], British and Japanese Royal and Imperial Relations, 1868-2018: 150 Years of Association, Engagement and Celebration (Renaissance Books, 2019). In addition, he has been a frequent contributor to the Japan Society’s Biographical Portraits series.

* Images: Irish Jesuit Archives

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