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The USA and Japan, 1941-52

1. Before Pearl Harbour (1853 - 1941)

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About this Lecture


In this module, Christopher looks back to the beginning of relationships between the United States and Japan, to the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry to the island in 1853. Japan's opening up to the Western world led to a period of rapid modernisation and expansion, with the Japanese recording famous military victories against China in 1894-5 and Russia in 1904-5. Fighting on the side of the Allies in the First World War, Japan was disappointed by her treatment in the Treaty of Versailles, and expansion in the Pacific continued at the same time as the United States herself was expanding into the region. A conflict seemed inevitable, and it was Japan that struck the first blow on 7 December 1941.


In this course, we explore the relationship between the United States and Japan between the attack on Pearl Harbour to the San Francisco Peace Conference and the end of US occupation of Japan. In six modules, we explore the relationship between the two countries up to 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbour and the Pacific War, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the beginnings of the Cold War and US interest in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, and US occupation of Japan, including the writing of the Japanese constitution in 1947 and the 'reverse course', when things started to heat up in Korea and Vietnam.


Christopher grew up in London before heading ‘up north’, as it seemed at the time, to Oxford University. Following an undergraduate degree in History, he was the co-founder of a company producing music for the computer games industry, before being lured back into academia via an MSt in Historical Research and then a DPhil in South Asian history, both at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

In 2004 he had the opportunity to go to Japan for a couple of years on a Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship, studying the language intensively, working on some comparative South Asia – Japan research, and training and working as a journalist with Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun.

He returned to the UK at the start of 2007 to take up a post at Edinburgh University, where he now researches and teaches on both South Asia and Japan.

In April 2012 he was privileged to be the recipient of the EUSA Teaching Award for Best Course (Pioneers of Cultural Communication 4MA) and to receive the Runner Up award for Innovative Teaching.

He is one of AHRC/BBC's ten New Generation Thinkers for 2013, with contributions to Radio 3's Nightwaves beginning in June 2013.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Harding, C. (2018, August 15). The USA and Japan, 1941-52 - Before Pearl Harbour (1853 - 1941) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Harding, C. "The USA and Japan, 1941-52 – Before Pearl Harbour (1853 - 1941)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,