The Taiwan Expedition: New Perspectives on Japanese Imperialism and the Meiji Restoration
Co-sponsored by East Asian Studies and History
In the spring of 1874 the Japanese government sent an expedition to southern Taiwan ostensibly to punish indigenous villagers who had murdered dozens of people from Ryūkyū. Contemporary records show that the Japanese government also attempted to colonize eastern Taiwan and it justified its actions using the argument that a state must spread civilization and political authority to territories where it claimed sovereignty. The expedition took place in the context of the unequal treaty system in East Asia and during the contentious early years the Meiji period, and it shows how Japan’s new foreign policy stance in the 1870s combined elements taken from Western imperialism with revolutionary changes in Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1868). The new foreign policy stance spread the effects of the Restoration beyond Japan and accelerated the disruption of dynastic power in East Asia.
Robert Eskildsen is a Senior Associate Professor in the Department of History at International Christian University, Tokyo. He received a PhD in modern Japanese history from Stanford University in 1998. He has published articles on the topic in the American Historical Review and The Journal of Asian Studies, and his book Transforming Empire in Japan and East Asia: The Taiwan Expedition and the Birth of Japanese Imperialism was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2019.