In the Ruins of the Temple of Jupiter: Japanese Empire and the Ordering of the World

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 11:10 AM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton)
Andrew Levidis, University of Central Lancashire
World War II witnessed a great transition for the Imperial Japanese Diet. As world war raged between 1941 and 1945, the Japanese legislature stood at the epicenter of a frenetic and sprawling attempt to reshape world affairs and the imperial legal order east of Suez. At its imperial zenith, the Japanese legislature’s writ extended over a far-flung imperial space of fragmented sovereignties from the metropolitan empire of Japan, to formal colonies, ex-League of Nations mandates, military protectorates, leaseholds, informal spheres of influence, and stateless nationalist armies. As the boundaries of empire grew, a process of enormous significance unfolded in Tokyo as civilian leaders embarked on a project to legally reorder newly acquired territories, subject peoples, and trade as part of the consolidation and reinvention of Japanese empire.

Wars within the informal imperium – in particular the French-Thai War (1940-1941) – just as much as those outside its formal borders spurred the creation of new international legal mechanisms to reinforce coordination among Japan’s military allies. Imperial politicians reached deep into the inner workings of subject territories, empowering anti-communist forces, royalists, and collaborationist European elites to act as their local agents. This process of legal restructuring drew men from the edges of empire--traitors, warlords, and leaders of puppet regimes and exiled armies--who saw personal advantage in the wartime reordering of East Asia. In looking outward, Japanese legislators sought to refashion their imperial constitution as part of forging a new global legal order capable of preserving Japan’s fragile hegemony in a post-colonial world.

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