by Mitch on July 16, 2012 0 Comments

Japanese Soldiers at the Great Wall of China, 1933. Beginning in the 1930s, Japan began to occupy territories on the Asian continent, first Manchuria and then other parts of China. In this photograph, Japanese soldiers plant the flag of Japan on the first gate of the Great Wall in Shanhaiguan near Qinhuangdao in eastern China.


The term occupation generally refers to the temporary stationing of troops by a victorious military force in the territory and possessions of a defeated state. The purpose is to pressure the occupied state into meeting the occupier’s postwar demands. Once the stated goals are met the occupying military will repatriate (return to its country of origin) and the occupied territory will regain its sovereignty. In this sense, occupation resembles trusteeship, a post–World War I strategy that temporarily entrusted the territory of the defeated Axis powers to the victorious Allies, with the goal of ...

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by Mitch on July 14, 2012 0 Comments

Japan’s emergence from the Sino-Japanese War (1894– 1895) as an East Asian power forced the Western nations to reassess and safeguard their interests in the region, especially in Qing-dynasty China (1644–1912). Russia quickly mobilized the Triple Intervention (with France and Germany) to forestall Japan’s possession of Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria as a ceded colony and secured China’s agreement in 1896 to extend the Trans- Siberian Railway through Manchuria to Vladivostok. The lure of financial gain also fueled fierce competition in floating the three major loans (one Franco-Russian and two Anglo-German) for Beijing’s indemnity payments to Japan. All this, and more, presaged the escalation of foreign rivalries in postwar China that peaked in the “scramble for concessions” from 1897 to 1899.


The frantic race began when Germany acquired compensations for two German priests who had been murdered in Juye, Shandong Province, in November 1897: the ...

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Book Review: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa.

by Mitch on July 3, 2012 0 Comments

Jason Stearns. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. 417 pp. $16.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-61039-107-8.

Reviewed by Matthew G. Stanard (Berry College)
Published on H-Empire (June, 2012)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

"Where elephants fight the grass is trampled"

For many who grew up during the Cold War, the competition between capitalism and communism seemed to determine the unfolding of history. Then 1989 happened, and communism collapsed spectacularly. Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the end of history, that is, the end of ideological competition and the triumph of Western liberal democracy.[1] Of course history did not end, ideological battles continued, and the decade that followed witnessed a dizzying array of complex developments. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait and was expelled. Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime collapsed in Ethiopia and Eritrea gained its independence, which ...

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Western Powers Invade China, and Chinese People Rise in Resistance

by Mitch on May 20, 2012 0 Comments

Shisan Hang, Guangzhou, where foreign trade was handled in the Qing Dynasty

In the 16th century, western colonial powers traveled to remote eastern lands to seek resources and to create markets and overseas colonies. In 1514, the Portuguese landed on Chinese land, followed by the Spanish, the Dutch, and the British. In 1793, a British delegation led by McCartney required the Qing imperial court to open trading ports, establish firms, and even to provide Zhoushan Islands for “dry goods.” The Qing imperial court determinedly refused the request.


Britain, with a trade deficit against China, began to smuggle opium into the country with intent to seduce Chinese civilians and soldiers to use it. The British government counted on the addictive nature of opium to produce sales that would overturn their trade deficit. The quantity of opium imported reached more than 40,000 chests per year by 1840.


The Chinese people suffered ...

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The Dissolution of Empire

by Mitch on May 14, 2012 0 Comments

In the period between 1945 and the end of the 1960s, the “colonial moment” came to an end across most of Africa, and did not last much longer even in those areas which proved rather more resistant to change. In some places, indeed, the experience of colonial rule had lasted little more than a couple of generations; the consequences may on certain levels have been profound, but in other respects what followed was a reversion to an earlier, nineteenth-century, pattern of relations between Africa and Europe. This may or may not have been the ultimate objective of colonial administrators, depending on how much we believe there to have been a “grand plan” in Rome, London, Paris, Lisbon or Brussels; but the speed with which colonial rule itself came to an end was certainly not anticipated. The empires set up in the 1890s and 1900s were meant to last rather longer ...

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The Middle East - Post-Second World War

by Mitch on May 5, 2012 0 Comments

The ravages of the Second World War left Europe’s colonial powers gravely weakened and incapable of projecting power in the region. In the face of severe British weakness and with the expiry of Britain’s mandate over Palestine looming, the United Nations (UN) attempted to forge a compromise partition plan to accommodate Palestine’s Jewish and Arab population. The plan was rejected outright by the Arabs, and when the mandate expired in 1948, Zionist leaders unilaterally declared the state of Israel. This declaration triggered an invasion by neighbouring Arab states, and in the resulting Arab–Israeli War of 1948, Israeli forces succeeded in driving out large numbers of Arab inhabitants of Palestine, significantly expanding the borders of the nascent Israeli state. This was the first of three major wars between Israel and various Arab forces over the course of the next twenty-five years. Collectively, these wars resulted in the ...

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The Middle East - Post-First World War

by Mitch on May 5, 2012 0 Comments

The First World War marked a decisive turning point in Middle Eastern history. During the war, in an effort to undermine the Ottoman Empire from within, the British encouraged the empire’s Arab subjects to rise up in revolt against Ottoman rule. The Arab Revolt, led by Sherif Hussein, helped hasten the demise of the Ottoman Empire and did much to fuel the emergence of Arab nationalism in the region. In return for their assistance in defeating the Turks, the British had promised to recognise an independent Arab state in the aftermath of the war. This promise was made explicit in a letter of 1915 from British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, to Sherif Hussein, which pledged that, subject to certain modifications, “Great Britain is prepared to recognize and uphold the independence of the Arabs in all the regions lying within the frontiers proposed by the Sharif of ...

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Book Review: The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall.

by Mitch on April 16, 2012 0 Comments

Timothy Parsons. The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 496 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-530431-2.

Reviewed by Jodie Mader (Thomas More College)
Published on H-Albion (January, 2012)
Commissioned by Thomas Hajkowski

Are empires ever a good thing? Can the Romans, Britons, and Spanish, and most recently the United States, be criticized and yet admired for their imperial conquests? Questions such as these are the focus of Timothy Parsons’s The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fail. Parsons’s lengthy tome asks whether empires are ever advantageous. He answers with an unequivocal “no.” His thesis is that “Empire has never been more than naked self-interest masquerading as virtue,” and he adds that his book will show “why empires are unbearable and eventually untenable” (p ...

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Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World.

by Mitch on February 28, 2012 0 Comments

Wayne E. Lee, ed. Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World. New York: New York University Press, 2011. 320 pp. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8147-5308-8; $28.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8147-5311-8.

Reviewed by Rainer Buschmann (California State University Channel Islands)
Published on H-Empire (February, 2012)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

Indigenous Peoples and the European Military Revolution

The flood of literature on the European military revolution has somewhat abated in recent years. The present edited volume seeks to revive interest in this historiographical relic by focusing on what the revolution’s literature has hitherto neglected: the indigenous role in imperial expansion and consolidation during the early modern age (1500-1800). In a strong introductory chapter, Wayne E. Lee closely examines the Habsburg’s conquest of vast Native American empires, which he identifies as the Spanish model. In Lee’s view, the uniqueness of this model ...

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China under thumb!

by Mitch on December 22, 2011 0 Comments

The Boxer Rebellion

For 2,200 years China was an extraordinarily durable imperial state, yet by 1557, when Portugal took possession of Macao, it became an object of European interest. Ruled since 1644 by the Qing dynasty descended from Manchu conquerors, nineteenth-century China was beset by internal convulsions and external challenges until 1912 when a nationalist revolution led by Sun Yatsen produced a republic. The first domestic upheaval, the folk-Buddhist White Lotus rebellion of 1796 to 1804, revealed both popular discontent with the Qing government and the flagging competence of its military. The Nian (1851–1868) and the Taiping (1850–1864) rebellions further weakened China and left its large territory and extensive coastline increasingly vulnerable to the predations of Britain, Japan, and Russia in particular. Indeed, the Qing’s bureaucratic rigidity and China’s educational and economic backwardness led to its humiliation as early as the Opium War of 1839 ...

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