Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: September 2016

Episode 166 – The Maelstrom, Part 4

Today, we’re starting a war! The battle for Manchuria begins as Japan and Russia confront each other on land and at sea for the first time. But will the daring Japanese plan to win the war quickly pay off?


Well….kind of.

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945. 

Nish, Ian. The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War. 

Nish, Ian. The Russo Japanese War of 1904-05, vol. 1



The surprise attack on Port Arthur on Feb 8, 1904.


Oskar Stark, the Admiral in charge of the Russian Pacific Fleet in February 1904.



A Japanese tactical map of the Battle of Nanshan. Nanshan itself is highlighted in red; Port Arthur is to the South.


The Battle of Nanshan. Japanese troops are in the fore; Russian defenses are in the rear.

Episode 165 – The Maelstrom, Part 3

This week — negotiations between the two sides begin in St. Petersburg, but neither Japan nor Russia is really committed to peacefully working things out. In Imperial Japanese Army HQ, the first steps towards an actual plan for war are formulated: but how to neutralize the many advantages Russia holds?

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945.

Drea, Edward. In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.




A map of the region showing the location of Port Arthur. Port Arthur (Dalian) was a tremendously important objective for the Japanese, as taking it would make ferrying troops into Manchuria far easier.


Port Arthur circa 1903. The Russians, not being idiots, were clever enough to figure out that the port would be a target for the Japanese — they invested heavily in both land and sea defenses.


Oyama Iwao, the Army General Staff Chief responsible for planning for a war on Russia.


Ito Sukeyuki, who was the naval general staff chief and responsible for handling the navy’s half of the planning.

Episode 164 – The Maelstrom, Part 2

This week, we’re going to cover the incompatible goals that led Japan and Russia towards war. Why did each side see the other as a threat? Why was war even on the table in the first place? Can’t we all just get along?

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945.

Nish, Ian. The History of Manchuria, 1840-1948: A Sino-Russian-Japanese Triangle.



A Chinese print depicting negotiations with the Germans and Russians over Port Arthur. The Russians swooped in on Manchuria only a few years after basically forcing the Japanese out “in the interests of Chinese stability.”

NPG P1700(73b); Ito Hirobumi by W. & D. Downey

Ito Hirobumi c. 1904 or earlier. In 1901, Japan’s foremost statesman went to London to lend his prestige to the idea of an Anglo-Japanese Alliance which he did not entirely favor.


A Japanese cartoon celebrating the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. On the right is Britannia personified; on the left is Amaterasu. The “children” under foot are China and Korea.


A box for matches manufactured in Japan. Nothing says everlasting friendship like cheap commercial tie-ins.

Episode 163 – The Maelstrom, Part 1

This week, we’re turning our attention to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. In our first episode, we’ll introduce our stage — Manchuria — and our players — Russia and Japan.

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945.

Purdue, Peter. China Marches West.

Westwood, J.N. Russia Against Japan.


Manchuria today. On this map, Port Arthur is labeled by its modern name of Dalian, and Mukden/Fengtian by its modern name of Shenyang.


Territorial exchanges as a part of the 1689 Treaty of Nerchinsk. The Chinese actually defeated the Russians in this undeclared war, and gained control of a vast swath of territory.


A French map from the early 1700s showing Manchuria. This territory was off limits to Han Chinese until the mid 19th century, when the pressures of imperialism necessitated mass migrations to the territory to secure Qing hold over it.


Harbin in the 1950s. Though the photo comes from far later than our story takes place, the building depicted – St. Nicholas’s Church – dates back to the era of Russian occupation and is a good example of durable Russian influence in the area.

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