Meiji Japan is an excellent lens through which to view the emergence of a global order in the 19th century and to examine the assertion of sovereignty in it. While other scholars present the case of Japan in terms of “the expansion of international society,” this talk will argue that Japan helps to demonstrate how international society was constructed. It was not that international society expanded and that Japan became a member; rather, as Japan asserted its sovereignty, it proactively joined the ranks of the great powers who defined and dominated international society. Central to this process was Japan’s engagement with the multiple legal grounds of the 19th-century state: natural law, treaty law, international administrative law, and the laws of war.
Prof. Douglas Howland is the David D. Buck Professor of Chinese History at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. His research interests include westernization in East Asia; international law and state sovereignty in China and Japan; liberalism and popular sovereignty in the 19th century.