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Sheldon Garon

Princeton University - (FIAS Program)
When Home Fronts Became Battlegrounds: A Transnational History of Violence against Civilians in Japan, Germany, and Britain in the Two World Wars
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022

Sheldon Garon is the Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University.  A specialist in modern Japanese history, he also writes transnational/global history that spotlights the flow of ideas and institutions between Asia, Europe, and the United States. His book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, has received global attention because it suggests what Americans might learn from past and present policies to encourage household saving in Europe and East Asia.  

He is currently writing a transnational history of “home fronts” in Japan, Germany, and Britain in World War II, focusing on aerial bombardment, food insecurity, and civilian “morale.”  His work on Japanese history likewise probes relationships between state and society in the areas of labor, women’s movements, prostitution, welfare policies, religion, and “moral suasion” campaigns. 

He received the Humboldt Research Award and has held fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Woodrow Wilson International Center, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

In September 2021, he joined the Paris IAS as part of the French Institutes for Advanced Study fellowship program - FIAS - co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945408. His fellowship also benefits from the support of the RFIEA+ LABEX, with a national funding (Grant ANR-11-LABX-0027-01).

Research interests

Transnational/Global History, War and Society, History of State-Society Relations, Saving and Consumption, Gender and Politics, Social Policy, and Labor

When Home Fronts Became Battlegrounds: A Transnational History of Violence against Civilians in Japan, Germany, and Britain in the Two World Wars

Millions of civilians died in World War II.  Many were deliberately targeted by enemies who employed aerial bombardment and food blockades to kill, malnourish, and terrorize civilians.  “When Home Fronts Became Battlegrounds” tells the story of civilians at war in Japan, Germany, and Britain, 1914-45.  This may be the most ambitious effort to apply the methods of transnational or global history to the study of the war.  Rather than examine each home front in isolation, the study shows how nations systematically investigated and emulated the home-front policies of allies and enemies. They concluded that victory depended on how well a nation mobilized civilians to support the war effort while protecting the people from air raids, hunger, and “demoralization.” 

The project also charts the transnational development of strategies aimed at destroying the enemy’s home front by bombing and blockades.  It connects and reinterprets such developments as the British blockade and German U-boat campaign in World War I; “air control” of colonies; international-law efforts to prohibit the bombing of cities; Japanese and German-Italian bombing of Chinese and Spanish cities (1930s); and civil-defense programs in Germany, Japan, and Britain.  The final chapters contrast Nazi Germany and Japan.  Hitler’s regime fought the finish, despite devastating air raids, whereas the Japanese home front collapsed as terrorized and hungry civilians fled the cities in the face of U.S. bombing and blockade.


Key publications

Garon Sheldon, Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life, Princeton University Press, 1998, 336 p.

Garon Sheldon, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, Princeton University Press, 2011, 488 p.

Latest publication

Garon Sheldon, “On the Transnational Destruction of Cities: What Japan and the United States Learned from the Bombing of Britain and Germany in the Second World War.”, in Past & Present, vol 247, n°1, 2020, p. 235-271. https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtz054

Conference organized by Sheldon Garon, historian, Princeton University, and former Paris IAS Research Fellow
19 Oct 2022 10:00 -
19 Oct 2022 17:00,
Paris :
The Global War on Civilians, 1914-1945
Talk by Sheldon Garon (Princeton University, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Fellow) as part of the conference "The Blockade in the Era of the Two World Wars" (NTNU)
18 Jun 2022 13:30 -
18 Jun 2022 15:00,
Blockade as Transnational Strategy: The Perspective from Japan
Round table organized by Sheldon Garon, Professor of History, Princeton University, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Fellow
30 May 2022 17:00 -
30 May 2022 19:00,
War and Civilians: Historical Perspectives on the War in Ukraine
08 Mar 2022 10:00 -
08 Mar 2022 13:00,
When home fronts become battlegrounds: a transnational history of violence against civilians in Japan, Germany, and Britain in the two World Wars
Conference by Sheldon Garon, 2021-22 Paris IAS Fellow, organized by the Centre de recherches sur le Japon
10 Feb 2022 13:00 -
10 Feb 2022 15:00,
Aubervilliers :
Applying Global History to the Study of War: Transnational Narratives of Resilience under Aerial Bombardment
Lecture by Sheldon Garon, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Fellow as part of the lectures series of the Paris Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Université de Paris
10 Dec 2021 18:00 -
10 Dec 2021 19:30,
Paris :
Five Things You’d Want to Know in Explaining Japan’s Surrender in 1945
Seminar by Sheldon Garon, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Fellow, Princeton University, as part of the cycle "History of contemporary East Asia: sources, methods, objects" organized by SIRICE, CRCAO, with the support of the Paris Institute for Advanced Study
04 Oct 2021 14:00 -
04 Oct 2021 16:30,
Paris :
Transnational Sources for Measuring 'Civilian Morale' in Wartime Japan

Contemporary period (1789-…)
Eastern Asia