New Book: The Nagasaki British Consulate 1859-1955

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The latest burst of words from Flying Crane Press is The Nagasaki British Consulate 1859-1955 (129 pages). It is the only major work in any language on the history of the Nagasaki British Consulate—the first British diplomatic station established in Japan and the last to close in the shadow of World War II.

The Nagasaki British Consulate was established on June 13, 1859, three weeks before Japan opened its doors to the world and embarked on a new era of international exchange. It was the first appearance of the Union Jack on Japanese soil since the closure of the English East India Company factory at Hirado in 1623. Over the following decades, the Nagasaki British Consulate served as a node on the vast networks of the British Empire and a symbol of British-Japanese cooperation in East Asia, watching over the growth of Nagasaki as an international port and the dramatic rise of Japan as a world power.

Richly illustrated and annotated, the book follows the turbulent history of the consulate from the first years in the Buddhist temple Myōgyōji, through moves from rented premises in Higashiyamate to its final location on the Nagasaki waterfront, and finally to the abandonment of the consulate soon after the outbreak of World War II and the sale of the buildings to Nagasaki City in 1955. Along the way, the author sheds light on the activities of successive consuls, including George S. Morrison (who suffered a nervous breakdown during the danger-ridden pre-Meiji years), Montague B.T. Paske-Smith (known for his ground-breaking book Western Barbarians in Japan and Formosa in Tokugawa Days, 1603-1868) and Ferdinand C. Greatrex, a botanist who served as consul from 1927 to 1945 only to be arrested and confined by Japanese military police after the outbreak of war. An article by the author on Ferdinand C. Greatrex, the last British Consul, can be found here.

The final chapter of the book discusses the fate of the former Nagasaki British Consulate in the postwar years, when British authorities abolished the former Japan Consular Service and relinquished former consular premises. The buildings in Nagasaki were purchased by local government in 1955 and converted into a science museum and later an art gallery. These measures resulted in the physical preservation of the buildings, but the history of the consulate was gradually forgotten, even after the designation of the former Nagasaki British Consulate as a National Important Cultural Property and a component of the Higashiyamate and Minamiyamate Historic Preservation District.

The former Nagasaki British Consulate is currently closed to the public and undergoing a major renovation to make the buildings earthquake-proof. To date, the value of the former consulate has been measured almost exclusively in its unique architectural characteristics. It is hoped that, after re-opening, Nagasaki City will use the premises as a place to introduce the history of the consulate and the role it played in Japanese-British relations.

The Nagasaki British Consulate 1859-1955 is available for purchase at Amazon.

For orders in Japan, please contact Flying Crane Press at flyingcranepress@yahoo.co.jp

 

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