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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Imagining Manmō: Mapping the Russo-Japanese Boundary Agreements in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, 1907-1915


This study attempts to delineate the boundaries of the spheres of interest in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia established under the Russo-Japanese accords of 1907 and 1912. Although the agreements are well known, there have been few efforts to reconstruct these spheres cartographically. Two existing maps offer contradictory interpretations. These partition agreements had a major impact on diplomacy, railway policy, and strategic planning during the decade they held force between 1907 and 1916, and the precise location of the Russo-Japanese sphere boundaries in this contested region was a matter of no small consequence. The author proposes a revised boundary map based on an examination of textual and cartographic sources, including maps produced by the army command of the Kwantung government-general. At the same time, the author seeks to highlight the potential value of cartographic analysis as a mode of historical inquiry into the record of Japanese imperialism. Cartography was an indispensable tool for modern empire builders in bringing a measurable territoriality to their realms and making their lands and subjects politically legible. The mapping entailed in these boundary agreements was important not only in bilateral diplomacy, but also in enhancing the legibility of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia to Japanese imperialists themselves.

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