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History Japan

Constructing Empire

The Japanese in Changchun, 1905–45

by (author) Bill Sewell

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2019
Japan, China
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2020
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Civilians play crucial roles in building empires. Constructing Empire shows how Japanese urban planners, architects, and other civilians contributed – often enthusiastically – to constructing a modern colonial enclave in northeast China, their visions shifting over time. Japanese imperialism in Manchuria before 1932 developed in a manner similar to that of other imperialists elsewhere in China, but the Japanese thereafter sought to surpass their rivals by transforming the city of Changchun into a grand capital for the puppet state of Manchukuo, putting it on the cutting edge of Japanese propaganda. Providing a thematic assessment of the evolving nature of planning, architecture, economy, and society in Changchun, Bill Sewell examines the key organizations involved in developing Japan’s empire there as part of larger efforts to assert its place in the world order. This engaging book sheds light on evolving attitudes toward empire and perceptions of national identity among Japanese in Manchuria in the first half of the twentieth century.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Bill Sewell is an associate professor of history at Saint Mary’s University. He has contributed to Harbin to Hanoi: Colonial Built Environment in Asia, 1840 to 1940, edited by Laura Victoir and Victor Zatsepine; Japan Review; and Japan at the Millennium: Joining Past and Future, edited by David W. Edgington. He is also the editor of Resilient Japan: Papers Presented at the 24th Annual Conference of the Japan Studies Association of Canada and Seven Crucial Centuries: Changes in Premodern Chinese Society and Economy, 499 BCE–1800 CE by John Lee.

Editorial Reviews

"The quality and the amount of research [Bill Sewell] has done is very impressive, and the book is sophisticated and informative."

American Review of China Studies

[Sewell] succeeds in demonstrating the complexity of Japanese society in Changchun/Xinjing. Constructing Empire’s detailed chapters will be indispensable to graduate students and faculty researching or teaching the Japanese Empire and Japanese urban history.

Journal of Asian Studies

The narrative in these chapters is grounded in vibrant historic detail, which results in a readable, empirically rich account.

Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review

This book serves as a study of an important dimension of Japanese imperialism and, at the same time, an exploration of an audacious undertaking in twentieth-century urban high modernism... [Sewell] offers an unexpected finding in the degree of continuity in the life of Japanese Changchun that might encourage us to reconsider, at the "street level", the sharpness of the great divide of imperial history conveniently marked by the Japanese conquest of 1931.

American Historical Review