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Turning Japanese: British Observation Of The Russo-Japanese War

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Chapter Summary

During the Russo-Japanese War, British observers assessed Japan and its power. Soldiers discussed cultural issues and correspondents military ones: indeed, journalists, some retired officers or old hands from British campaigns, wrote stories like military estimates, with their political sympathies plain. Both sets of observers used impressionistic interpretations to explain a new phenomenon to home audience. This chapter discusses their observations about the war, and how they shaped views at home. It assesses perceptions and the process of perception, and the interactions between military and cultural history. British observers used Japan as a mirror to gauge their own approach to war and fitness for one: in particular, comparison with Japanese self-sacrifice and patriotism caused British officers to fear for that of their own people, touching a deep chord in Edwardian England, a fear of national decline. Social Darwinism had little impact on British observations of the Russo-Japanese War.

Keywords: British observation; cultural history; Russo-Japanese war; social Darwinism



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