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Ian Rapley

Dr Ian Rapley

Lecturer in East Asian History

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 29208 74260
John Percival Building, Room 4.31, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a historian of modern Japan with interests in the intersections between intellectual, culural, and social history.

Research interests

  • Twentieth century Japanese cultural and intellectual history 
  • Transnational movements, especially across Asia 
  • Language and history
  • History of Science
  • History of Travel
  • Local histories and histories of place.

I made a number of public talks/appearances, in places such as The National Gallery Scotland, The Japan Society (London), and the BBC World Service. 

I am also the editor of Cardiff's open source journal: Asian Literature & Translation. We publish translations and other research on the broad subject of Asia, aiming to provide an open-access venue for scholarly work that might perhaps fall outside of the remit of journals which focus more exclusively on research-articles. Please consider submitting something to us!

You can also find me on ( as well as my personal site ( or on Twitter (, with the usual disclaimers.










Book sections



I am interested in a range of topics in modern Japanese and Asian history that are all broadly transnational in nature.

My first work concentrated on language in a transnational setting, arguing that the choice and development of languages used in international and transnational contexts is both revealing and important. Diplomatic missions, trade in the treaty ports, dissemination of scientific research, radical communist networks - all of these encounters and more besides were border crossing events which required the selection and use of a language to facilitate exchange and understanding. Whilst we often ignore the medium through which conversations and letter writing took place, in order to focus on the content of those meetings, examining more closesly language choice and language use brings additional insights into the nature of international encounters.

In 2019-20 I was the principal investigator on the AHRC/ESRC funded project The Japanese Scientist In Japan And In The World, which seeks to develop the history of Japanese science in a global context, examining the challenges faced by Japanese scientists in penetrating Western networks of scientific practice and in defining a position for themselves in Japanese society. My personal research seeks to look at the development of Japanese physics through the biography of two Nobel prize winners: Yukawa Hideki and Tomonaga Shinichiro.

Finally, I am also interested in travel and international encounters. This research focuses on the experiences of Western travellers to Japan in the late nineteenth and twentieth century and the role of informal encounters in shaping international relations between Japan and Western powers. By looking at travellers and travel writing, I am interested in the popular construction of ideas of Japan, the role of personal experience in this, and the ways in which these influenced more conventional international relations.


I currently teach the following two year long stand-alone modules:

I also teach on and convene the undergraduate year one Asian history module:

  • Making Global Histories: Asia and the West (HS1108)

In prior years I have also lectured and taught seminars (and may do again!) on the following undergraduate modules:

  • Making of the Modern World (HS1105)
  • History in Practice (HS1107)
  • Approaches to History


I currently have two research students:

  • Michael Trull - a 'new diplomatic history' of Anglo-Japanese Relations (PhD)
  • Alec Batty - Chaplains in the Far East during the Second World War (Mphil)