Japan, Britain, and the Crisis of Empire in World War II: Wilsonian Empires at War?

Society of Fellows Lecture Series, Spring 2018:

Jeremy A. Yellen, CUHK

Japan, Britain, and the Crisis of Empire in World War II: Wilsonian Empires at War?
5-6:30pm, Feb 26, 2018
Room 4.36, Run Run Shaw Tower

One striking feature of the Pacific War was the extent to which Wilsonian ideals informed the war aims of both sides. By 1943, the Atlantic Charter and Japan’s Pacific Charter (Greater East Asia Joint Declaration) outlined remarkably similar visions for the postwar order. This comparative study of the histories surrounding both charters highlights remarkable similarities between the foreign policies of Great Britain and Imperial Japan. Both empires engaged with Wilsonianism in similar ways, to similar ends. Driven by geopolitical desperation, both reluctantly enshrined Wilsonian values into their war aims to survive a grueling war with empire intact. But the endorsement of national self-determination, in particular, gave elites in dependent states a means to protest the realities of both British and Japanese rule and to demand that both empires practice what they preach. This comparative analysis of Britain and Japan thus sheds light on the part Wilsonian ideology played in the global crisis of empire during World War II.

Jeremy A. Yellen is a historian of modern Japan and Asia who earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 2012. His research interests center on Japan’s political, diplomatic, and transnational history. His first book, Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity: When Total Empire Met Total War is forthcoming at Cornell University Press.

 

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