Anglo-Japanese relations were not excluded from the dreadful milieu of carrying out diplomacy in East Asia. Disease, loneliness, and alcoholism was rife, home was incredibly distant, and the next crisis or war was never too far away. It was incredibly hard for the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service to properly staff Japan, and even harder to put an experienced chief diplomat in charge; allowances had to be made for illness, death, recalls and long-distance travel. One of the main responses to this problem was the Chargé d’Affaires. A Chargé d’Affaires acted with all the powers and pretences of a normal ambassador or minister, but the significant difference was that their time in charge was always temporary.
The temporary and short-term nature of the role has had an unfortunate side effect however, and that is its absence from many historical studies. One major part of my research is designed to resuscitate the important role of the Chargé d’Affaires in Anglo- Japanese relations. The many individuals that filled this role have largely gone unnoticed and their efforts towards the development of Anglo-Japanese relations forgotten. Even though their temporary tenures in charge coincided with some of the most important events in not only Anglo-Japanese history, but Japanese history overall.
For my seminar I will show a biographical view of three individuals, namely, Charles Winchester, Robert Watson, and Ralph Paget, who fulfilled this role at times across the period of 1853-1902, and dissect their lives, rationale, and impact on Anglo-Japanese relations. The consequences of this are twofold, for not only will we understand how Chargé d’Affaires took part in relations with Japan, a surprisingly more significant role than otherwise stated, but we will also have a broader template on how to better consider this role in Britain’s wider global diplomatic contexts in the future.
I started out at the University of Westminster (2014-2017; BA), then the University of Bristol (2017-2018; MA), and now I am in the care of Cardiff University (2019-). For the past three years, I have situated myself in the approaches and methodologies of New Diplomatic History, which seeks to reassert the diplomat within wider diplomatic history. My intention is to improve our understanding of British state and non-state actors who undertook diplomacy with Japan (1853-1902).
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.