Telecommunications and Japanese Expansion in Asia, 1883-1945
Harvard University Asia Center 2011
Daqing Yang's Technology of Empire: Telecommunications and Japanese Expansion in Asia, 1883-1945(Harvard University Asia Center, 2011) is a gift to both historians of East Asia and scholars of science and technology studies (STS). Yang's book dissects the body of the Japanese empire from 1853-1945 to reveal its pulsing "nerve system" in a network of communication technologies that extended well into Northeast and Southeast Asia. This extraordinarily rich and well-documented account moves from the first public demonstration of a working electric telegraph with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry, to the Japanese acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. Along the way, Yang's book offers wonderful glimpses of a range of sources that include the North China Telegraph and Telephone Co. company song, an adventure-action-romance film about telecommunications-enabled espionage, and experiments in early fax technology. We spoke for an hour (and could have spoken for many more) about this fascinating history of techno-imperialism.