In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Russo-Japanese War

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Historiographic Guides
  • General Overviews
  • Centennial Anthologies
  • Japanese Home Front
  • Cultural History
  • Illustrated Histories
  • Lessons and Impact

Military History Russo-Japanese War
John W. Steinberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 February 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0053


The historiography of the Russo-Japanese War can be divided into three phases. The first, the period between the war itself and the outbreak of World War I, was the shortest in time span and the most prolific in numbers of works written. This outpouring of publications resulted in this war being observed by every military establishment and news agency in the world. The level of interest in the Russo-Japanese War rested on two facts: First, the idea of a small and rising Asian power engaging in a conflict with an established and huge European colonial power captured the imaginations of everyone. The other substantial issue was the use of weapons that were the product of a century of industrial development. The conclusions of these pre–World War I studies revealed that the battlefield had become intensely lethal, for which the belligerents were not well prepared in any aspect. Moreover, the defeat of Imperial Russia infused a level of hope and energy to struggle for liberation into the people of color throughout the colonial world. The outbreak of World War I almost rendered the Russo-Japanese War to the dustbin of history. A mini resurgence of studies occurred in the post–World War II period, thereby marking the second phase of publications on this Far Eastern conflict. These books offer readers a basic narrative of the course of the war both on land and sea. The analytical thrust of this literature places the war within the interpretative motif of conventional military history. The third and most recent phase of publications on the Russo-Japanese War occurred with the war’s centennial. Edited collections of essays, composed of articles written by international teams of scholars, were published to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the conflict. These studies focus on how much that occurred in Manchuria in 1904–1905 was repeated on a larger scale, primarily in Europe proper, in World War I, in 1914–1918. This premise prompted a historiographic debate over whether the significance of the war had been missed by previous scholarship. Because of the far-reaching global implications of the war, factors ranging from international political, financial, and military relationships to the scale of the battlefield(s), to the size of armies and duration of battles, resulted in conclusions that sought to contextualize it either as a large prelude to World War I or as a separate global conflict that should be renamed “World War Zero.”

Reference Works and Historiographic Guides

The reference books and historiographic guides listed in this section were selected to provide researchers with basic materials to consult if they decide to conduct further work on the conflict. The article signed by a British officer in 1911 (A British Officer 1911a and A British Officer 1911b) is a guide to the early literature on the war. The article on the Russo-Japanese War from the 1910–1911 Encyclopedia Britannica (Unsigned 1910–1911) provides an early comprehensive and authoritative narrative of the conflict. Luchiniin 1939, a bibliographic index, lists all Russian publications, especially articles that focus on unit histories. Kowner 2006 and Starshov 2004 offer readers contemporary historic dictionaries of the war.

  • A British Officer. “The Literature of the Russo-Japanese War, I.” American Historical Review 16 (April 1911a): 508–528.

    This article offers an extensive historiographic essay that identifies much of the most significant works published in the immediate aftermath of the war. The anonymous British officer who wrote this piece paid particular attention to the official histories, to the individual works of military observers, and to the journalist who covered the war for a myriad of news agencies.

  • A British Officer. “The Literature of the Russo-Japanese War, II.” American Historical Review 16 (July 1911b): 736–750.

    This is the second half of the historiographic article listed in A British Officer 1911a.

  • Kowner, Rotem. Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2006.

    Kowner’s dictionary is the most recent encyclopedic guide published in English. It concludes with an extensive (unannotated) bibliography. This bibliography identifies Japanese language sources, materials that are not cited in this bibliography.

  • Luchiniin, V. Russko-Iaponskaia voina, 1904–05 gg. Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ knizhnoi literatury. Moscow, 1939.

    This book offers a comprehensive list of most works published in Russia/Soviet Union in the period up to the outbreak of World War II. It is an especially important aid in helping scholars identify articles written in the prerevolutionary Russian journals.

  • Starshov, Y. V. Russko-Iaponskaya voina: Slovar-spravochnik. Moscow: Exlibris, 2004.

    On a bibliographic level, this book updates Luchiniin 1939. On a reference level it follows the pattern of a dictionary that offers readers encyclopedia-like entries that provide basic knowledge of the war.

  • Unsigned. “The Russo-Japanese War.” In Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th ed. Vol. 23. 919–930. Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1910–1911.

    Although it may be a bit unusual to include an encyclopedic article in a bibliography, this is no usual encyclopedia article. Clearly written by a veteran of the conflict, this article provides a short yet very thick narrative of the war from beginning to end. It divides the war into three theaters of operation: Naval, the Manchurian War of Maneuver, and the Siege of Port Arthur.

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