Reconsidering the origins of World War II in Asia and the Pacific, this book focuses on the diplomatic and cultural interactions between the United States and Japan in the interwar period. Challenging as well as amplifying accepted interpretations, historian John Gripentrog argues that competing ideologies of world order—particularly the rift between liberal internationalism and Pan-Asianism—was at the heart of the conflict between the two powers. He also explores the US reception of the Japanese government’s efforts to legitimize its regionalist aspirations through soft power, and how these efforts ended up backfiring.
John Gripentrog is professor of history at Mars Hill University, North Carolina. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and specializes in US foreign relations in East Asia. Dr. Gripentrog is the recipient of the Robert S. Gibbs Outstanding Teaching Award at Mars Hill University as well as the Letters and Science Teaching Award at UW–Madison.
Notes on Usage
1 “Too Proud to Fight”: The Dream World of Orderly Processes (1919–1930)
2 Toward Two Worlds: The Manchurian Crisis (1931–1933)
3 Japan’s Charm Offensive (1933–1934)
4 The High Tide of Cultural Diplomacy (1935–1936)
5 A New Order in East Asia (1937–1938)
6 “This Mad World of Ours” (1939–1940)
7 “So Many Unexplainable Things Are Happening” (1940–1941)
About the Author
John Gripentrog gives us an expanded and energized understanding of a troubled period of international history. Recurring themes are treated in fascinating depth, including the American insistence on ‘orderly processes’ of world order and the mirage entertained by Ambassador Joseph Grew and others that a liberal element among Japan’s leaders would ultimately rise to disable the hawks. By astute use of archival documents, diaries, press materials, and reliable published accounts of the period, Gripentrog brings to life key historical personalities including Cordell Hull, Hirota Kōki, Matsuoka Yōsuke, and Franklin Roosevelt. Graced with lucid, quality prose, the book is a captivating read.
Prelude to Pearl Harbor is a synthesis in the best sense of the word. John Gripentrog highlights the dynamic, shifting conditions in Asia over a twenty-year period. The book is evenly balanced in explaining Japanese and American policy making and describing the people responsible for those policies. Gripentrog’s examination of the relationship between Pan-Asianism and Japan’s cultural diplomacy in the United States makes an original contribution to the scholarship on the 1930s and adds a new dimension to our understanding of US-Japan relations.
This book offers an excellent discussion of ‘liberal internationalism’ as a key to tracing US-Japan relations in the aftermath of the Great War. Initially accepting the ideology as a basis for its policy toward China, Japan steadily retreated from it during the 1930s as it expanded its power on the Asian continent. The result was an inevitable collision between ‘Japanese regionalism and liberal internationalism,’ as the author notes. Prelude to Pearl Harbor makes an important contribution to understanding the ideological dimension of the crisis that led to the Pacific War.
In this excellent book, John Gripentrog traces the complex ways in which ideology, cultural relations, and policy were knotted together in US-Japan relations between the world wars. The reward for readers is a deepened understanding of the bumpy road that led to World War II and beyond.