British Commonwealth archives constitite a rich and often under-utilized source of material for understanding the international history of the 20th and 21st centuries. From the late 19th Century onward, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand each enjoyed close and confidential relations with not just Britain, but with each other and increasingly, too, with the United States. They also participated in major international organizations at both an official and non-governmental level. Although or perhaps because each was a “middle” rather than “great” power, as each country developed its own diplomatic bureaucracy, their representatives often had informal and even intimate insights into the policies of a wide range of countries. This article introduces the highlights of each nation’s major archival repositories for materials relating to international affairs. While the holdings of the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa, the National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia in Canberra, and the National Archives of New Zealand in Wellington all feature prominently, the author casts a wider net and draw researchers’ attention to additional important and often under-utilized collections scattered across the different countries.
While access to library and archival collections in mainland China remains unclear due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and increasing government scrutiny, past experiences in Chinese archives are still relevant for scholars going forward, in the event that the People’s Republic of China reopens the doors to these collections. In surveying the digital, print publication, and manuscript collections pertaining to the Chinese history of World War ii, this article shows how access to new kinds of sources redefined the pre-pandemic state of the field. In particular, curated volumes that emphasized perspectives from the Chinese Communist Party and leftist intellectuals gradually have given way to a more representative collection of the documentary evidence, and Taiwanese collections continue to be important to the historiography. The article begins with coverage of well-known guides and published catalogues of mainland and Taiwanese collections. It then covers some military documents that Chinese scholars occasionally have referenced. It emphasizes the richness of accessible material on the social and cultural history of the war era as part of a call to colleagues and future students to expand the scope of what is traditionally thought to be “military history.” There is ample opportunity for major interventions into our understanding of wartime China, which shaped the course of modern history overall, and major innovations in historiography that scholars usually make from the dusty reading rooms of the libraries and archives.
This essay introduces readers to the recent discovery of the personal papers of Grand Steward Tajima Michiji. These documents capture the post-surrender reflections of Hirohito, Japan’s Shōwa Emperor, and record him speaking on such issues as his war responsibility, as well as the culpability of prewar politicians such as Konoe Fumimaro and General Tōjō Hideki. In August 2019, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) (nhk) announced that it had gained privileged access to the papers. Acting on advice from scholars, it then released extracts from Tajima’s audience records. Drawing not on the Tajima papers themselves, but on what the nhk has made available, the documents demonstrate that Hirohito, after Japan’s surrender, experienced anguish and over the war and its outcome. He continued as emperor because he accepted “moral responsibility” for the war that required him to help his nation and its people endure occupation and reconstruction. This article also describes Hirohito’s postwar reflections on several issues, such as Japanese field officers and subordinates in the 1930s initiating without authorization acts of aggression, the Rape of Nanjing, and Japan’s postwar rearmament. While the Tajima papers will not resolve the ongoing debate over the emperor’s responsibility for Japan’s path of aggression before 1945, they do provide valuable insights about his role in and reaction to events before, during, and after World War ii.
This article introduces readers to World War ii-era Japanese primary sources that have become available, over the last three decades, at the major archives and libraries. It also illustrates how and why some of these hitherto unavailable archival materials have become publicly accessible. At first, political, diplomatic and military historians primarily conducted their research at Diplomatic Archives, Military Archives, and the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room, until the Japanese Diet passed a law in 2011 stipulating that all government and agencies, except for the Foreign Ministry and Imperial Household Agency, must transfer archived documents to the National Archives of Japan (naj). Enhancing its importance for research, the naj played the lead role in creating and maintaining the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records that has sustained a major effort at digitization. Other important primary sources include documents related to Emperor Hirohito, the Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy series, holdings of the Military History Department, and materials non-governmental organizations have published. The amount of Japanese source materials and their digitization now has reached a level that meets the U.S. and European standards.
Recent years have seen the rapid descent of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (prc). Hopes for cooperation in places of common concern like climate change gave way to strains in almost all areas. In place of “engagement,” the administration of Donald J. Trump adopted a tougher approach of “strategic competition” that its successor so far has continued. This article explores the relationship between the demise of engagement and opinions coming from the American China expert community. Specifically, it questions the impact on engagement of five secular dynamics that these China authorities have experienced—generational turnover; the field’s vast expansion and diversification; increased disciplinary specialization; the enhanced prominence of the generalist in national security discussions in place of China specialists; and changes in the media leading to more skeptical journalistic voices on U.S.-prc relations. Without over-emphasizing either the influence of the expert community on U.S. decision-making, or underplaying the more repressive and authoritarian actions of the Chinese Communist Party, this article suggests that the China expert community has been more of a factor in the end of engagement than current accounts of academics and commentators acknowledge.