Glasgow University's Great War Project

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Japan and the University of Glasgow during the early 20th century

By Eriko Ueno, MLitt History of Art postgraduate student, University of Glasgow

The first consultation between Ito Hirobumi (later to become the first Prime Minister of Japan) and William John Macquorn Rankine (then Regius Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Glasgow) took place during the early period of Japan’s Meiji restoration; and this meeting marked the beginning of the fruitful relationship between Japan and the University of Glasgow, particularly in the field of engineering science. Ever since the 1870s, many Japanese students obtained their expertise at the University and later contributed to their home country’s rapid modernization.[1] As part of my Club 21 internship with Glasgow University’s Great War Project in the University of Glasgow Archives, I have come to discover that this flourishing relationship kept alive around the time of the First World War, too. In 1914, Japan allied itself with Britain and the Entente Powers, providing naval support and taking action against Germany’s Pacific territories.

On the occasion of the centenary of the First World War (2014-2018), Glasgow University’s Great War Project is providing a deeper understanding of the University’s experience, by sharing stories of its alumni and staff members who lived during the wartime. As an international student from Japan, I was offered a valuable opportunity to be involved in the project and received a fascinating assignment to research the Japanese students who studied here in Glasgow around the time of the First World War. Through my research, I have found that many of Japanese international students studied engineering science and later assumed important roles both at governmental organisations and private companies in relevant fields in Japan.