Cees HeereJul 6, 2021
The British World, Race, and the Rise of Japan, 1894-1914
Oxford University Press 2020
In signing an alliance with Japan in 1902 Great Britain sought to strengthen its position in eastern Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Yet this relationship was not a bilateral one, but one in which the concerns of Britain’s Dominions in the region were a complicating factor. In Empire Ascendant: The British World, Race, and the Rise of Japan, 1894-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2020), Cees Heere describes the role of race in relations between the two island powers and how it reflected changing dynamics at a key point in world history. As Heere demonstrates, anxieties in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand over the rise of Japan as a regional power and the growing numbers of Japanese immigrants to their countries fueled tensions that occasionally erupted into violence. These anxieties were shaped in part by Japan’s growing rise as a regional power and the challenge this posed to the racial assumptions driving Western imperialism. While anti-Japanese riots and other attacks strained relations between Japan and Britain, in London these concerns were weighed against the benefits of the alliance, which took on added value as they faced the possibility of war in Europe. Though Britain addressed these concerns by recasting the Anglo-Japanese Alliance for their settler colonies as a guarantee of racial security, in the end this did little to slow the growing assertiveness of the Dominions in matters of immigration and defense policy.