Thursday, October 4, 2012

Illustrating a War

The Illustrated History of the Russo-Japanese War by J.N. Westwood. Published by Sidgwick & Jackson, London. 126 pages, illustrated.

The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905

Between 1904 and 1905, Japan and Russia fought for the ownership of a port on the Pacific that would represent strategic authority in the region. By the time Japan had established their defeat of Russian forces, the supporting web and entanglement of European and Asian powers had engendered a complex political situation. It was the first modern war to bring powers from opposite sides of the world to the battlefield.

From the end of this war and into the future, Japan became a world player, a political rival to the already known big powers. Every image of the year-long war in “The Illustrated History of the Russo-Japanese War” by J.N. Westwood shows personal expression in the face of terrible battles, or sometimes at rest, between the horrors of killing for might. The photographic record includes images shot close to the action, representing the soldiers’ and sailors’ faces, dress, and activity in a super-realistic manner. Alongside are numerous artists’ impressions in the form of paintings, creating an interesting mix of photographs, original and from newspapers, etc., and illustrations. Cartoons were created to deconstruct events and present them to audiences in Europe and the U.S. Of course, Japan had no shortage of opinion on this war, as you can see in the cartoon below.

The story of the war is told in short chapters, “The Causes”, “The Adversaries”, “The First Blows”, etc. and gives only significant details. An interesting book for its format and illustrations, it was published in 1973, almost 70 years after the war and its eventual peace agreement. There are no acknowledgements, index or notes.

See this and other accessioned books on Japanese warships in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Library online at

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