My interest in Japan first dates from when I worked as an English teacher for three years on the JET Programme. After completing an MA in Japanese Studies at SOAS I returned to Japan and studied at Kyushu University, in the south of the country, for two more years. As part of my doctoral studies at Oxford I also spent another year doing fieldwork on remote islands in the Inland Sea region before taking up my position in Newcastle in the summer of 2008.
I am on research leave from 2012-14, during which time I shall be a Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellow at Heidelberg University, Germany.
Degree Programme Director, MA East Asian History (2010-11)
DPhil (History) University of Oxford, 2008
MA (Japanese Studies) University of London, 2002
BA (Hons, Modern History) University of Oxford, 1998
The British Association for Japanese Studies
The European Association for Japanese Studies
The Association for Asian Studies
I work on the social and cultural history of Japan from the mid-nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries. I particularly study the ways in which the lives of 'ordinary people' force historians to rethink a number of crucial issues in modern Japanese history, including the significance of rural decline in the twentieth century, the local impact of the nuclear power industry, and the impact of the Japanese diaspora on homeland life.
Other research interests include discourses of furusato ('hometown') in modern Japan, memory-construction in the 1990s and 2000s, the movement of global knowledge, and Japan's changing relationship with the Asia-Pacific world in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
My first book, Hard Times in the Hometown: A History of Community Survival in Modern Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2012), explores many of these themes through the story of Kaminoseki, a small town in the Inland Sea region. The book shows how successive generations of townspeople tried to make sense of Japan's extraordinary transformations from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day--through revolution, overseas labour, and ultimately the town council's request, in the 1980s, for a nuclear power station to be built in the municipality. The dispute that this request unleashed within the community continues to this day and has particular resonance in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
To date, the book has been reviewed in Japan Forum 24, 3 (August 2012), Monumenta Nipponica 67, 2 (2012) The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43, 4 (Spring 2013), The Japan Times newspaper (17 February, 2013), The Journal of Social History 46, 4 (Summer 2013), The Journal of Economic History 73, 2 (June 2013), Pacific Affairs 86, 3 (September, 2013), Japanese Studies 33, 3 (2013), and The Journal of Japanese Studies 40, 1 (Winter 2014).
A number of my articles and chapters grow out of my book research (see 'Publications' tab). I have written about the history of the Japanese nuclear power industry in The Journal of Asian Studies (co-authored with Daniel P. Aldrich, article downloadable here), and about local responses to Fukushima in the Asia-Pacific Journal (August 2012, accessible here). My work on the impact of the pre-war Japanese diaspora on local communities appeared in Japan Forum in 2008, and I have discussed post-war memories of the idealised 'hometown' in Christopher Gerteis and Timothy S. George (eds.), Japan since 1945: from Postwar to Post-Bubble (Bloomsbury, 2013). I have also written a chapter, provisionally entitled 'Of World History and Great Men: A Japanese Village and its Worlds', to be published in Tosh Minohara, Tze-ki Hon, and Evan Dawley (eds.), The Decade of the Great War: Japan and the Wider World in the 1910s (Brill, 2014).
I am now working on a new project which is provisionally entitled, 'From Newcastle to New Nation: Japan, the World, and a Ship, 1884-1910'. This will be a social history of Japan's engagements with the outside world in the late-nineteenth century through the perspective of a single passenger-freight ship, the Yamashiro-maru, which was built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From 2012-2014, I shall be working on this project as an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellow at Heidelberg University's Cluster of Excellence, 'Asia and Europe in a Global Context'. In 2011-2012, I was based at the Cluster of Excellence as a visiting professor, during which time I jointly organised a conference entitled, 'The Asia-Pacific Maritime World: Connected Histories in the Age of Empire'.
Following the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear crisis, I wrote opinion pieces on Japan's nuclear power industry for The Guardian: 'After Fukushima, Japan's "authority myth" is crumbling' , and 'Is Japan really winding back on nuclear?', plus articles for Reuters 'Breaking Views' and History Workshop. Most recently, I wrote about Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for the Asia-Pacific Journal (December 2012).
My broadcast media work includes appearances as a guest panellist on the BBC World Service's 'Weekend World Today' and Radio 3's 'Night Waves' (available on BBC iPlayer); I also was part of a follow-up discussion on the tsunami for 'Night Waves' in March 2012; and most recently I discussed the history of Mount Fuji also on 'Night Waves' (July 2013).
I am happy to supervise postgraduate dissertations on any aspect of modern Japan that relates to my own research interests.
Honorary Treasurer, British Association of Japanese Studies (2009-2011)
I am on research leave in academic years 2012-14.
HIS1030 Evidence and Argument
HIS2013 Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate, 1600-1868
HIS2014 Japan since 1868
HIS3060 The Japanese Revolution of 1868
HIS3061 Japan and the Second World War
HIS3008 Reading History
HIS3010 Writing History
HIS8055 Keywords in East Asian History (Module Leader)
HIS8001 Identities and Material Culture in East Asian History (Module Leader)
HIS8023 MA Dissertation