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From the ashes of the Great Kantō earthquake: The Tokyo Imperial University settlement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalJapan Forum
Early online date11 Dec 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2018


In the 1880s, an Anglican clergyman and staff and students from Oxford University set up a ‘settlement house’ in the East End of London. Conceiving poverty as a moral problem, their goal was to live with the poor to raise their cultural standards, and thus pull them out of the cycle of destitution. The idea soon spread to the United States, where settlement houses sprang up across the country. That the settlement movement would travel across the Atlantic is no surprise: there was rich exchange between the UK and US in the late 19th century, and the values underpinning the movement – namely a particular protestant understanding of the relationship between morality and work – were shared. But what is perhaps less expected is that the settlement movement also travelled to Japan where it was put into practice by a range of governmental and non-government actors including students at Tokyo Imperial University in the wake of the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake. The movement then flourished for almost a decade, before coming to an end in 1938. How was it adapted to the Japanese context? What were its goals, methods, successes and failures? And what can this example tell us about the global circulation of ideas regarding social responsibility, the state, and welfare in the pre-war period?

    Research areas

  • law, settlement movement, Shinjinkai, social work, student movement, Taisho Japan

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