New Research! Port Towns and Diplomacy: The British Empire and the Japanese Navy in the Early Twentieth Century

Commemorative Katori and Kashima postcard

Dr Melanie Bassett, Faculty Research Fellow for Port Towns and Urban Cultures, has published an article which appears in the current edition of The International Journal of Maritime History. ‘Port Towns and Diplomacy: Japanese Naval Visits to Britain and Australia in the Early Twentieth Century’ explores the visits of the Imperial Japanese Navy to Portsmouth in May and June 1906, and to Sydney and Melbourne in May 1906.

This research places maritime history and maritime spaces at the centre of new approaches that explore cultural and diplomatic interactions between the uneasy allies of Britain and Japan as a result of the Anglo-Japanese Alliances (1902 and 1905). It provides a new dimension to assessing the role of the port in constructing public acceptance of diplomatic issues and builds upon a recent trend in urban maritime history that has been developed here at the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures research group.

IJN Training Squadron on a visit to Townsville, Australia 1906

Article Abstract:

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1905 was a watershed moment for the presence of the Royal Navy in the Pacific. Although it allowed the Royal Navy to concentrate its fleets in European waters, this strategy caused resentment due to the underlying fear of the ‘Yellow Peril’, especially in the British dominions of Australia and New Zealand. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance presented some challenges to the received Edwardian racial hierarchy and the idea of British military supremacy. This article demonstrates how the ‘port town’ not only became a place of mediation where high-level international diplomacy mingled with the face-to-face experience of an alliance ‘in practice’, but also a space through which issues such as Otherness and imperial security were contested and explored.

The International Journal of Maritime History, volume 32 (1) is out now online.

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