Japan and the League of Nations

Japan joined the League of Nations in 1920 as a charter member and one of four permanent members of the League Council. Until conflict arose between Japan and the organization over the 1931 Manchurian Incident, the League was a centerpiece of Japan’s policy to maintain accommodation with the Western powers. The picture of Japan as a positive contributor to international comity, however, is not the conventional view of the country in the early and mid-twentieth century. Rather, this period is usually depicted in Japan and abroad as a history of incremental imperialism and intensifying militarism, culminating in war in China and the Pacific. Even the empire’s interface with the League of Nations is typically addressed only at nodes of confrontation: the 1919 debates over racial equality as the Covenant was drafted and the 1931–1933 League challenge to Japan’s seizure of northeast China. Japan and the League of Nations: Empire and World Order, 1914–1938, by Thomas W. Burkman, fills in the space before, between, and after these nodes and gives the League relationship the legitimate place it deserves in Japanese international history of the 1920s and 1930s.

December 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-2982-7 / $58.00 (CLOTH)