The Japanese victory over Russia in 1905 shocked the colonial and colonized world alike. Never before had an Asian state inflicted such a heavy defeat on a European power. While Japan presented as a vindication of its own modernization – a triumph of ‘civilization’ over Russian ‘backwardness’ – the Russo-Japanese War raised pressing questions over the long-term viability of the Western imperial project, not least in the empire that had, since 1902, been in a formal alliance with Japan – the British.
In his new book, Empire Ascendant, Cees Heere explores 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. Weaving together studies of diplomacy, strategy, and imperial relations, this new account of the Anglo-Japanese alliance poses searching questions about how Japan’s entry into the family of civilised nations shaped, and was shaped by, ideologies of race.
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. His most recent article, “’That Racial Chasm that Yawns Eternally in Our Midst’”, won the annual Pollard Prize from the Institute for Historical Research in London.