Japan and Imperialism, 1853-1945

"James Huffman offers a lucid chronological account of Japan’s experience first as a target and than as an increasingly committed practitioner of imperialism. He provides an eminently accessible and richly illustrated narrative, with due attention to key interpretive issues, that is wonderfully suited for classroom use. An especially attractive feature of the work is the way each chapter opens with a personal vignette of a victim, a critic, or an agent of imperialism and its effects - giving a tangible, human form to one of the defining forces that shaped modern Japan and its international relations through World War II." - Steven J. Ericson, Associate Professor of HIstory, Dartmouth College
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Association for Asian Studies, Inc.
Ann Arbor, MI
ISSN Number
Average: 4 (1 vote)


Please login to review this resource

Good Overview of Japanese Imperialism

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 01/24/2017

Huffman's extended essay for the series Key Issues in Asian Studies provides a wonderful overview of Japanese Imperialism from the mid 1800s to 1945. In the vein of The New Oxford World History series, the books in the Key Issues in Asian Studies Series are short (an average of 90 pages) and concise - hitting on key transitional events and offering a broad overview of particular topics in East Asian history. Huffman's work has many strengths:
1. He provides a short theoretical section offering a brief historiography of works on Japanese imperialism and prevailing theoretical approaches to its study.
2. He offers a wonderful section arguing for the uniqueness of Japanese imperialism (a syncretic process).
3. He places Japan's unique experiences within the wider global processes of colonialism, industrialization, and nationalism.
4. He provides an enlightening discussion of the centrality of Korea in Japan's imperialist goals and identity.
While providing a wonderful overview of Japanese imperialism, the book does have obvious limitations - primarily, its brevity does not allow for in depth discussion of events (eg. the process by which Japan is able to negotiate an end to extraterritoriality... a truly fascinating subject, but outside the scope of this text).
Overall, a good source for someone unfamiliar with Japanese imperialism or someone desiring a concise overview of the topic. I find this and other books in the series very helpful when outlining key events and seeking out additional material for the period or place under study... it is a good place to start your investigation into Japanese imperialism.