Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
The Other Great Game

The Other Great Game

The Opening of Korea and the Birth of Modern East Asia

Sheila Miyoshi Jager

ISBN 9780674983397

Publication date: 05/16/2023

Request exam copy

A dramatic new telling of the dawn of modern East Asia, placing Korea at the center of a transformed world order wrought by imperial greed and devastating wars.

In the nineteenth century, Russia participated in two “great games”: one, well known, pitted the tsar’s empire against Britain in Central Asia. The other, hitherto unrecognized but no less significant, saw Russia, China, and Japan vying for domination of the Korean Peninsula. In this eye-opening account, brought to life in lucid narrative prose, Sheila Miyoshi Jager argues that the contest over Korea, driven both by Korean domestic disputes and by great-power rivalry, set the course for the future of East Asia and the larger global order.

When Russia’s eastward expansion brought it to the Korean border, an impoverished but strategically located nation was wrested from centuries of isolation. Korea became a prize of two major imperial conflicts: the Sino-Japanese War at the close of the nineteenth century and the Russo-Japanese War at the beginning of the twentieth. Japan’s victories in the battle for Korea not only earned the Meiji regime its yearned-for colony but also dislodged Imperial China from centuries of regional supremacy. And the fate of the declining tsarist empire was sealed by its surprising military defeat, even as the United States and Britain sized up the new Japanese challenger.

A vivid story of two geopolitical earthquakes sharing Korea as their epicenter, The Other Great Game rewrites the script of twentieth-century rivalry in the Pacific and enriches our understanding of contemporary global affairs, from the origins of Korea’s bifurcated identity—a legacy of internal politics amid the imperial squabble—to China’s irredentist territorial ambitions and Russia’s nostalgic dreams of recovering great-power status.

Praise

  • Sheila Miyoshi Jager has written a grand narrative of modern East Asian imperial rivalry that successfully demonstrates the outsize importance of Korea to the region. Too often, Korea has been treated as a tangential or superfluous component of books and college courses about East Asian history, which tend to focus overwhelmingly on China and Japan. After this book, it should be clear just how blinkered an approach that is.

    —Stephen R. Platt, Wall Street Journal

Author

  • Sheila Miyoshi Jager is the author of Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea and Narratives of Nation-Building in Korea: The Genealogy of Patriotism. A specialist on modern East Asian and Korean history and politics, she has written for the New York Times, Politico, and the Boston Globe. She is Professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College.

Book Details

  • 624 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

From this author

Recommendations