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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

East Asian Studies
Postdoctoral Research Associate in East Asian History
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Fellow of: 
Wolfson College

Thomas is a Japan-trained historian of East Asia, who specialises in the international, diplomatic and transnational history of the region up until the end of the long nineteenth century. He is also interested in the historical development of the Japanese kangaku/sinological tradition, including its people, methodologies, and arguments, and the wider history of knowledge production in the Japanese academic and intellectual contexts. 

Before taking up his current post in Cambridge, Thomas was trained in the Japanese Tōyōshi 東洋史 tradition, completing his BA at Aichi University (the successor to the Shanghai-based Toā Dōbun Shoin 東亜同文書院) and his MA at the University of Tokyo. In 2016, he began his PhD at the University of Tokyo as a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science DC Research Fellow under the guidance of Professors Murata Yūjirō 村田雄二郎 and Kawashima Shin 川島真. In 2019, he moved to the University of Oxford to complete his doctoral work under the supervision of Professor Henrietta Harrison. He has also studied at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

Titled ‘Foreigners and the Making of the Chinese Diplomat’, Thomas’ doctoral thesis evaluates the significance of foreigners who were employed as counsellors, secretaries, legal advisors and consuls in late Qing and early Republican China’s legations and consulates, as a means to trace how Western European diplomatic culture and practice came to be institutionalised in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The project was funded in Japan by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and in Britain by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Parts of the project have been published in the renowned Japanese journals Shigaku Zasshi 史学雑誌 and Tōyō Gakuhō 東洋学報, and in an edited French volume published in October 2021 by the École française d'Extrême-Orient. Further articles and monographs in the English and Japanese languages are also currently in preparation.

Thomas’ current project seeks to develop an analysis of how China and the way it related to the outside world in the pre-modern era was understood both in the Japanese and European intellectual contexts. He is also developing other projects on the continuities and breaks in imperialist practices of Qing China and Japan in the Korean context, and on the history of Japanese sinology.

Having undergone the majority of his academic training in Japan, Thomas is particularly passionate about promoting and encouraging further academic engagement between Japan and other academic traditions. In addition to being an active organiser of panels and workshops between Japanese and non-Japanese scholars, he is also a member of two professionally funded research groups that are affiliated with the Toyo Bunko 東洋文庫 in Tokyo, which strive to improve global awareness of the library's extensive collection of primary and secondary resources which previously belonged to George Ernest Morrison and Henri Cordier.

Translation is another key means through which Thomas seeks to broaden awareness of Japanese and other non-Western academic traditions, working with both the Japanese and Chinese languages. The project he was most recently involved with was the English-language version of Okamoto Takashi, ed., A World History of Suzerainty: A Modern History of East and West Asia and Translated Concepts (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 2019) (岡本隆司編『宗主権の世界史――東西アジアの近代と翻訳概念』名古屋大学出版会、2014年), in which feature his translations of chapters by Okamoto Takashi and Morita Yoshihiko. He is also currently working on the translation of a further Japanese academic monograph, which is currently under contract with a major press.

Recent Publications:

  • トーマス・バレット「D.B.マッカーティと「琉球処分」問題——清朝在外公館における外国人館員の私的活動とその意義をめぐって」『史学雑誌』第131編第2号、2022年、pp.1-38。[Thomas P. Barrett, 'Qing Legation Members as Private Diplomatic Actors: D.B. McCartee’s Role in the Sino-Japanese Dispute over the Ryukyu Annexation', Shigaku Zasshi 131, no. 2 (2022): 1-38]
  • Thomas P. Barrett, ‘Un pont entre les mondes: les diplomaties de l’ombre de Halliday Macartney au temps de la guerre franco-chinoise’, in D’un Empire, l’autre : Premières Rencontres Entre La France et Le Japon au XIXe Siècle, ed. François Lachaud and Martin Nogueira Ramos (Paris: EFEO, 2021), 275-302.
  • トーマス・バレット「清朝在外公館における西洋人スタッフの外交活動に関する考察——清仏戦争時のハリデー・マカートニーの活動を中心に」『東洋学報』第100巻第3号、2018年、pp.59-93。 [Thomas P. Barrett, ‘The Role of Western Staff in Qing China's Legations: Halliday Macartney and the Sino-French War’, Tōyō Gakuhō 100, no. 3 (2018): 59-93]

For a fuller overview of Thomas’ publications and translations, please see his Academia page here. 業績の詳細については、researchmapのページをご覧ください