Antony Best, "British Engagement with Japan, 1854-1922: The Origins and Course of an Unlikely Alliance" (Routledge, 2020)

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Antony Best's British Engagement with Japan, 1854-1922: The Origins and Course of an Unlikely Alliance (Routledge, 2020) reconsiders the circumstances which led to the unlikely alliance of 1902 to 1922 between Britain, the leading world power of the day and Japan, an Asian, non-European nation which had only recently emerged from self-imposed isolation. Based on extensive original research, the book not only provides an overview of Anglo-Japanese relations between the 1850s and 1920s, but also goes beyond existing accounts which concentrate on high politics, strategy and simple assertions about the two countries’ similarities as island empires. It brings into the picture cultural factors, particularly the ways in which Japan was portrayed in Britain, and ambivalent British attitudes to race and supposed European superiority which were overcome but remained difficulties. It charts how the relationship developed as events unfolded, including Japan’s wars against China and Russia, and in addition looks at royal diplomacy, where the Japanese Court came eventually to be treated as a respected equal. Overall, the book provides a major reassessment of this important subject.

Antony Best is a professor of international history at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Shatrunjay Mall is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works on transnational Asian history, and his dissertation project explores intellectual, political, and cultural intersections and affinities between Indian anti-colonialism and imperial Japan in the twentieth century.

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