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Guest lecture: "Empire Ascendant: The British World, Race, and the Rise of Japan, 1894-1914"

Jan 15, 2020 05:00 pm to 07:00 pm
Organiser: Professorship of Cultural Economic History
CATS, Institute of Japanese Studies, Room 120.02.11

Speaker: Dr. Cees Heere (Roosevelt Institute for American Studie/Leiden University)

The lecture will be based on Dr. Heere┬┤s new book "Empire Ascendant: the British World, Race, and the Rise of Japan, 1894-1914" (Oxford University Press, December 2019).


In 1902, the British government concluded a defensive alliance with Japan, a state that had surprised much of the world with its sudden rise to prominence. For the next two decades, the Anglo-Japanese alliance would hold the balance of power in East Asia, shielding Japan as it cemented its regional position, and allowing Britain to concentrate on meeting the German challenge in Europe. Yet it was also a relationship shaped by its contradictions.

The lecture examines how officials and commentators across the British imperial system wrestled with the implications of Japan's unique status as an Asian power in an international order dominated by European colonial empires. On the settlement frontiers of Australasia and North America, white colonial elites formulated their own responses to the growth of Japan's power, charged by the twinned forces of colonial nationalism and racial anxiety, as they designed immigration laws to exclude Japanese migrants, developed autonomous military and naval forces, and pressed Britain to rally behind their vision of a 'white empire'. Yet at the same time, the alliance legitimised Japan's participation in great-power diplomacy, and worked to counteract racist notions of a 'yellow peril'.

By the late 1900s, Japan stood at the centre of a series of escalating inter-imperial disputes over foreign policy, defence, migration, and ultimately, over the future of the British imperial system itself. This account weaves together studies of diplomacy, strategy, and imperial relations to pose searching questions about how Japan's entry into the 'family of civilised nations' shaped, and was shaped by, ideologies of race.

About the speaker:

Dr. Cees Heere is a postdoctoral researcher at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies and Leiden University. His research focuses on international and imperial history, with a particular focus on race and migration in the British and American empires. He obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics. In 2015, he received the annual Pollard Prize from the Institute for Historical Research in London for his article on the imperial politics of immigration. The guest lecture will be based on his book from Oxford University Press (December 2019).



Lecture poster

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