History Textbooks and the War in Asia is the first phase of the Divided Memories and Reconciliation project. It carries out a comparative examination of the high school history textbooks in those five societies, focusing on the period from the beginning of the Sino-Japanese war in 1931 until the formal conclusion of the Pacific war with the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951.
The research team examined the most widely circulated national and world history textbooks in use in each school system, along with textbooks used for college-preparatory classes (with the aim of focusing on the formation of elite opinion). Translations of those textbooks were prepared and the research team presented comparative excerpts of the treatment of 8 key historical issues, such as the Marco Polo Bridge incident and the atomic bombing of Japan. This allows scholars, experts, the media and others, for the first time, to actually compare how historical memory is shaped in those school systems. It broadens the context for understanding the role of textbooks beyond those used only in Japan. The conference at Stanford brought together prominent historians of the wartime period, including Stanford’s Peter Duus and Mark Peattie, as well as Japan’s Tohmatsu Haruo and South Korea’s Chung Jae-Jung. It also invited textbook authors, among them the directors of the Peoples Education Press, China’s main textbook publisher, to discuss the process of textbook writing and authorization in each society. For example, Japanese historian and textbook writer Mitani Hiroshi, provided a vibrant account of his own personal experience in the debates over Japan’s controversial textbooks.