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Dr Aaron Moore - research

Civilian Accounts of Bombing in WWII Britain and Japan

Bombing the City: Civilians and the Air War in Britain and Japan, 1939-1945

Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare

During the course of collecting personal documents by soldiers and youth, I discovered hundreds of materials left by ordinary civilians during WWII in Britain and Japan. To my great surprise, the experience of being a civilian enduring evacuations, aerial bombing, food rationing, and labour controls was strongly similar when I compared materials from local archives in Japan and Great Britain, and these similarities exceeded those of other contexts, including Germany, Russia, China, and the United States. Britain and Japan had shared a close, and usually amicable, relationship prior to the 1930s, with each enjoying broad support in the pursuance of their martime empire. Both faced the threat of invasion and annihilation by militarily superior continental neighbours, but their post-war fates were determined by their particular relationship with the United States.

Drawing from recent scholarship on WWII and its memory, Bombing the City confronts the ugly reality of the 'good war' in the main Western European Allied power, Britain, and the leading Eastern Axis power, Japan. Eschewing well-known narratives from Tokyo, London, and Hiroshima / Nagasaki, the book focuses on regional cities that also suffered due to severe bombing, including Coventry, Kagoshima, Liverpool, Shizuoka, Hull, and Nagoya. By closely analysing the personal narratives of civilians in Britain and Japan, Bombing the City aims to show the similarities between Axis and Allied powers, West and East, as both countries contended with the demands of total war mobilisation and relentless attacks from the sky.

Research

I am a transnational researcher who focuses on social and cultural history. My work includes documents in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian, as well as research in British and American archives.

A History of Childhood and Youth in Wartime Britain, Japan, China, and Russia

I have been awarded, along with Peter Cave, a three year grant from the AHRC (£642,000, from 2012 to 2015) to archive and analyze the personal documents of children and adolescents in imperial Japan. In addition to roughly twenty lectures around the world, I have also accumulated hundreds of gigabytes of digitised diaries, letters, photographs, and drawings depicting the experience of Japanese children and youth during the 1930s and 1940s, composed by the young people who endured those years. We have already hosted outreach events, lecture series, conferences, and workshops on the subject of wartime childhood and youth.

With assistance from a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£41,000), I was able to include materials from China, Russia, and Great Britain.

Other Work

I am also writing on Chinese civilian diaries from the 1950s and interwar North Asian speculative fiction. In 2016, I will be hosting Prof. Seth Jacobowitz from Yale University as a Simon Visiting Professor to discuss his work on 1930s Japanese science fiction. I am interested in how rapidly developing countries such as Japan, China, Russia, and Turkey envisioned their future from 1920 to 1960.

WWII Soldiers Diaries in China Japan and the USA

My first book, Writing War, was an investigation of over two hundred diaries, and many other letters, postcards, and memoirs, by Chinese Nationalist, Japanese, and American soldiers during the period of total war in Asia and the Pacific, 1937-1945. Relying on dozens of collections across Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States, it was the first comparative study of wartime life writing of this scope, and emphasised the importance of individual 'self-discipline' in the crafting of modern subjectivity. Writing War was a finalist for the 2013 Royal Historical Society's Gladstone Prize.

 

To complete this research, it was necessary to travel across Japan, China, Taiwan, and the USA in search of dozens of sorely neglected local collections.

 

A project ten years in the making, Writing War has received praise from leading historians, as well as positive reviews in academic journals, including The American Historical Review, The Journal of Asian Studies, the Journal of Social History, and The Journal of Japanese Studies. It also was highlighted in the non-academic press, including Weekendavisen (13 Jul 2013), the Literary Review, the South China Morning Post, and the Financial Times. Reviewers have called it a 'tour de force' and a 'richly suggestive and at times despairingly poignant account' that successfully compares Japanese, Chinese, and American diarists' stories of WWII, for which the 'implications ... are huge, and draw a question mark over one of our strongest taboos about the war'.