Dulwich Boys and Beyond: 100 Years of Japanese Studies at SOAS

On 1 February the SOAS Japan Research Centre organised a commemorative event, Dulwich Boys and Beyond: 100 Years of Japanese Studies at SOAS, to celebrate the School’s centenary. Speakers at the event comprised people with longstanding links with SOAS, including its alumni. SOAS was founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies, with the aim of training colonial administrators and fostering knowledge of the Orient.

It enabled British people to engage, through the method of Area Studies, in the Japanese language and culture. In fact, Japanese was constantly offered from the outset of the teaching programme in 1917. Both the Army and the Royal Navy regularly sent students for language training throughout the 1920s, and subsequently State scholarships were offered to select schoolboys to train as military translators and intelligence officers. Among the people benefiting from this scheme was a distinguished group of young men who came to be known as the Dulwich Boys. One of its most prominent members, Professor Ronald Dore, was present at the gathering.

As Ambassador Hayashi mentioned in his remarks, the group of Japan specialists produced by SOAS helped to rebuild the bridges of friendship between Japan and the UK after the war. One of its most towering figures is Sir Hugh Cortazzi, who was a wartime language student, went on to serve as British Ambassador to Japan and addressed the participants at the event. SOAS is one of the leading educational institutions in its field and, through its Japan Research Centre, founded in 1978, offers outstanding Japan-related courses. For more information, including a recording of the event described above, please refer to the SOAS website.


Thumbnail photograph on webmagazine: Wartime language students at SOAS. Credit; SOAS Library (PCE, Taiwan/Formosa, Photographs, Box 6) © The United Reformed Church; originally supplied by courtesy of Margaret Beattie