Louise Young is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at UW-Madison and is affiliated with the Center for East Asian Studies, where she served as director from 2005-2008. She earned her BA in Political Science at the UW-Madison in 1982 and her PhD in History from Columbia University in 1993. Before joining the faculty at the UW-Madison in 2003, she taught at NYU and Georgetown. She is a social and cultural historian of modern Japan, with research and teaching interests that include international relations, World War Two in Asia, comparative imperialism, urban history, and social thought. Her successive major research projects have focused on the relationship between culture and empire, urban modernism between the wars, and most recently, the idea of class in Modern Japan. She is currently working on a book of essays that examine Japan in the world as a history of the present.

Project Summary

Asian historians typically end their accounts of “Imperial Japan” in 1945, when military defeat in World War Two signaled the end of the formal empire in Asia. Rethinking Japanese Imperialism brings the story forward to the present day, connecting the prewar and postwar orders and analyzing the impact of Japanese power in Asia across the twentieth century. As Japan rebuilt its national economy, it re-established many of the same economic relationships that had constituted the basis of the colonial empire prior to 1945. Though we tend to think of Japan after 1945 as the inverse of the prewar state, carrying the story forward allows us to think about the central importance of the Asian market for Japanese capitalism across the twentieth century, about continuities in regional geo-politics, and about the enduring relationship between nationalism and empire.

Major Publications

“When Fascism Met Empire in Japanese-occupied Manchuria,” in special issue on Axis Empires: toward a global history of fascist imperialism, Journal of Global History, Vol.12, no. 2 (June 2017): 274-296.
Beyond the Metropolis: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan (University of California Press, 2013).
Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (University of California Press, 1998)