In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Japan is Number 73 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Written by John Harington Gubbins (1852−1929), a former British Foreign Office official and secretary of the British Legation in Tokyo, the book is one of the few volumes in the series published under the name of an individual author. It is mostly a political history of Japan, with a brief section on contemporary social and political conditions. The study covers the entire sweep of Japan’s recorded history, from the sixth century and the introduction of Buddhism from China to the outbreak of World War I and Japan’s declaration of war on Germany of August 23, 1914. Topics covered include the early history of Japan, the feudal system and the establishment of Tokugawa rule, early relations with European powers and the closing of Japan, and the modern era. Topics discussed under the latter include the visit of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 and the opening of Japan to foreign trade, the Meiji Restoration of 1868−69, war with China in 1894−95, the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904−5. The section on social and political conditions discusses the two main religions of Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism, and emphasizes the role of the former as the recognized court and state religion and an important source of imperial power and legitimacy.

Last updated: September 5, 2014