Dr Martin Dusinberre
Lecturer in Modern Japanese History


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.

Roles and Responsibilities

Degree Programme Director, MA East Asian History (2010-11)


DPhil (History) University of Oxford, 2008
MA (Japanese Studies) University of London, 2002
MA (Hons, Modern History) University of Oxford, 1998


The British Association for Japanese Studies

The European Association for Japanese Studies

The Association for Asian Studies


Research Interests and Publications

I originally trained as a historian of modern Japan, although I am increasingly interested in studying Japanese history within the context of the Asia-Pacific region. My work explores the relationship between microhistory and global history, and particularly attempts to consider the voices of "ordinary people" in some of the key historical developments of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century world.

My first book, Hard Times in the Hometown: A History of Community Survival in Modern Japan (Hawaii, 2012), offers what The American Historical Review has called "a compelling alternative narrative of modern Japanese history" by focusing on the story of one small town in the Inland Sea region. Through the histories of individual households over four or five generations, the book shows how 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 for a nuclear power station to be built in the municipality in the 1980s. The local dispute over the still-unbuilt power station continues to this day and has particular resonance in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

To date, Hard Times in the Hometown has been reviewed in The American Historical Review 119, 2 (April, 2014), The Journal of Japanese Studies 40, 1 (Winter 2014), Japanese Studies 33, 3 (2013), Pacific Affairs 86, 3 (September, 2013), The Journal of Economic History 73, 2 (June 2013), The Journal of Social History 46, 4 (Summer 2013), The Japan Times newspaper (17 February, 2013), The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43, 4 (Spring 2013), Monumenta Nipponica 67, 2 (2012), and Japan Forum 24, 3 (August 2012).

A number of my articles and chapters have grown 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 have a chapter, 'Of World History and Great Men: A Japanese Village and its Worlds', 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, forthcoming 2014). 

Current Work

Since 2011, I have been working on a new book, provisionally entitled, Mountain Castle: A Global History of Japan, 1853-1910. This explores Japan's engagements with the outside world in the late-nineteenth century as told through the story of a single passenger steamship, the Yamashiro-maru, which was launched in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1884. Based on archival research in Japan, Britain, Hawai'i, and Australia, the book will show how Japan's changing notions of modernity and sovereignty were refracted through the ship, its crew, its material cultures and cargo, and not least through its thousands of passengers, many of whom were migrant labourers in the Pacific world. 

Since 2012, I have been 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'. I have recently been made an Associate Fellow of the new Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. 

Media Work

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).

Postgraduate Supervision

I am happy to supervise postgraduate dissertations on any aspect of modern Japan that relates to my own research interests.

Professional Service

Honorary Treasurer, British Association of Japanese Studies (2009-2011)

I am on research leave in academic years 2012-14.

Undergraduate Teaching

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

Postgraduate Teaching

HIS8055 Keywords in East Asian History (Module Leader)

HIS8001 Identities and Material Culture in East Asian History (Module Leader)

HIS8023 MA Dissertation