Anglo-Japanese Alienation Revisited

  • Ian Nish


In 1979 we held in London the Anglo-Japanese Conference on the history of the second world war. Its papers and proceedings were published in English as Anglo-Japanese Alienation, 1919–52, while in Japan they were published under the more academically respectable title of Nichi-Ei kankeishi, 1917–49.1 The alienation discussed in that volume was of two kinds. The first was the deteriorating relationship between Britain and Japan in the 1930s which eventually led to war in 1941. The second was the post-war alienation which was a global phenomenon whereby Britain acknowledged that she could no longer sustain a major role in east Asia. Aspects of the first will be dealt with by other authors in this volume. My concern in this chapter is to consider the thinking on both sides between 1931 and 1937 as politicians in Britain and Japan became aware that the two countries were voluntarily or involuntarily being pulled apart. What form did the alienation take in this period? And how did it fit in with (what some scholars call) the proposals for an Anglo-Japanese rapprochement? During the early 1930s Britain increasingly had her back to the wall in east Asia, which was an area remote from her homeland and of lesser interest to her than some parts of the British Commonwealth where she had major problems at the time. She still had a formidable presence in Asia, both naval and commercial; but her status there was beyond the strength which she could devote to maintaining it. The result was a series of attempts by Britain to seek accommodation with Japan, a country whose political stance she did not like. On Japan’s side also, there was a series of approaches, often rather shadowy, by which she sought to cut free from her isolation in the world.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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  • Ian Nish

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