Transnational Studies of 19th-Century Japanese and British Science Project
Funded by the Daiwa Foundation, this project focuses on the complex cultural connections between Japanese and British science in the nineteenth century during a period when intellectuals around the globe began to interact more intensively due to increased opportunities to travel and the growth in translations of important scientific works into many languages. This was also an era when, in the latter part of the century, Japanese intellectuals were searching for ways to modernize their culture, while in Britain there was a renewed interest in Japanese culture and religion as traditional forms of thought were being questioned.
Co-led by Efram Sera-Shriar, Bernie Lightman, this project hosted a workshop at Durham University in July 2022 and is in the process of producing a peer-reviewed special issue for Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, due to be published in 2024/25.
Henry Seebohm and the study of birds between Britain and Japan in the nineteenth century
Today the name Henry Seebohm is almost completely unheard of, however, in the nineteenth century, Seebohm was a pioneering British figure in the study of birds. Seebohm was an English steel manufacturer and ornithologist. He travelled across the globe to places such as Greece, Turkey, Siberia and South Africa and published several books on global ornithology. Seebohm was one of the first to successfully introduce the trinomial classification of birds (already adopted in Germany and America) into Britain during the late nineteenth century.
In 1890 Seebohm published The Birds of the Japanese Empire. This book became the most up-to-date British description of Japanese birds. However, Seebohm's knowledge of Japanese ornithology and wider culture was gathered not through his own observations (as he did not travel to Japan), but rather through other European travellers to Japan, as well as the Japanese themselves. With this in mind, I use Seebohm and his work on birds as a case study to better understand the increasing cultural, scientific and and imperial relations between Britain and Japan during the nineteenth century when Japan was opening up to the rest of the world as an emerging global empire.