On the Transnational Destruction of Cities: What Japan and the U.S. Learned from the Bombing of Britain and Germany in World War II

On the Transnational Destruction of Cities: What Japan and the U.S. Learned from the Bombing of Britain and Germany in World War II

Sheldon Garon - Professor of History and East Asian Studies, Princeton University

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
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Room 211, Hall of Graduate Studies See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 06511

The Council is pleased to present the Nineteenth Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies.

How did it become “normal” to bomb cities and civilians?  Focusing on the aerial bombardment of Britain, Germany, and Japan in 1940-45, Garon spotlights the role of transnational learning in the construction of the “home front” among all the belligerents.  World War II was a global experience, yet histories of the home front remain confined to individual nations.  In reality, not only did the warring states study each other’s strategies to destroy the enemy’s home front and “civilian morale,” they also investigated others’ efforts to defend one’s own home front by means of “civilian defense.”  In this transnational world of knowledge-gathering, Japan emerged as a central player.  But it was Japan’s fate to suffer the war’s most lethal firebombing, based on what the Allies had learned from bombing European cities.

SHELDON GARON is Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University.  A specialist in modern Japanese history, he also writes transnational history that charts the flow of ideas and institutions between Asia, Europe, and the United States—notably Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves (2012) and “Transnational History and Japan’s ‘Comparative Advantage,’” Journal of Japanese Studies (Winter 2017).  His current project is a transnational history of “home fronts” in Japan, Germany, and Britain in World War II, focusing on aerial bombardment, food insecurity, and civilian “morale.”  Previous publications include Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life (1997) and The State and Labor in Modern Japan (1987), and he coedited The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West (2006).

The John W. Hall Lecture Series in Japanese Studies was established with generous support from Mrs. Robin Hall in memory of her husband.  Considered one of this past century’s finest scholars of the history of Japan, John Whitney Hall was born in Tokyo in 1916 and developed an interest in Japanese language, culture, and history at an early age.  After receiving his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Harvard, Hall began his academic career at the University of Michigan in 1949 and came to Yale in 1961 as A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 1983.

Professor Hall specialized in the Ashikaga through Late Tokugawa periods, and throughout his career he wrote or edited some of the most important and influential volumes on Japanese history.  He contributed to the study of Japan through not only his writing, but also through service as chair of several local and national committees, including the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Council of Learned Societies-Social Science Research Council (ACLS-SSRC) Joint Committee on Japanese Studies.

The Council on East Asian Studies hopes this lecture series will enable young and old scholars alike to remember John Whitney Hall’s work and grand contributions to the study of Japan.

Japan, Transregional