Book Review: The Impact of the Russo-Japanese War


by Kowner Rotem

Routledge, 2009. Pp. xx, 348. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95 paper. ISBN: 0415545822

The Impact of the Russo-Japanese War asks, and answers, the question, "Why, more than a century after its end, should we care about the Russo-Japanese War?"

Although studied intensively for a few years after its conclusion, racism tainted many of its potential lessons, notably the advent of trench warfare, and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) was quickly overshadowed by the First World War, and then passed into virtual obscurity with the advent of the second global conflict.  In this work Prof. Kowner (Haifa) has gathered eighteen essays by himself and sixteen other scholars who have worked on the war, to examine it’s impact on the belligerents and the world at large.  So while there is much about the events of the conflict, this work is not a history of the war.

Following an introduction, the essays are grouped into four sections.  The first looks at the war’s effect on the two belligerents, and includes an interesting thought-piece on the possible consequences had Japan lost.  The second section looks at the effects of the war on the other great powers, including the United States.  There follows a series of essays on the influence of the war on Asia and the development of Asian anti-colonialism, subjects almost literally wholly overlooked in most histories of the war.  The final section addresses the influence of the war on the armies and navies of the Great Powers, which largely rejected potentially valuable military lessons, with disastrous consequences in 1914-1918, but did take notice of the naval ones.  All of the essays are thought-provoking, and some break new ground, notably the war’s effect the rise of Asian nationalism, and the rise of Japanese-American rivalry.

A volume in the Routledge series, “Studies in the Modern History of Asia,” The Impact of the Russo-Japanese War is a valuable read for anyone with an interest in the era of the First World War or the history of East Asia.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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