Fragmented Geographies: Japanese and German Fieldwork on the New Colonial Peripheries of Northeast Asia, 1925-1950


This project tracks the trajectory of German and Japanese geographers working in Korea and Northeast China before, during, and after the Second World War, and the physical impact of Japanese expansion on those landscapes.

As Japan’s continental empire expanded and its alliance tightened with Germany, scholars from both nations explored the new periphery, engaging in studies of terrain, rural landscapes and geology. The project draws from primary sources in Japanese archives, including notebooks of geographers like Tada Fumio which describe in detail the process of fieldwork, as well as a wealth of publications by German geographers influenced by Karl Haushofer and his geopolitical school of the time. By tracing their research pathways and career trajectories, the project discovers new interconnections of colonial research and Cold War knowledge.

Case studies

Tada Fumio was a geographer whose career was indelibly linked to Japan’s continental expansion, including studies of Korean geology, desertification in Inner Mongolia, and the practice of academic geography in Seoul. Gustav Fochler-Hauke, another case study, explored the landscapes of the puppet state of Manchukuo with great range in the mid-1930s, producing a massive geography of the region which preceded his enlistment in Operation Barbarossa and, after the war, teaching in Buenos Aires and Munich.


Using the history of geography, the project seeks to go beyond the now-abundant field of the intellectual history of transnational fascism, or the study of wartime intellectuals in the German and Japanese alliance. Instead, we centre our energies in fieldwork studies along frontiers where linkages among colonies and newly colonised actors can be better understood. It therefore develops the fields of environmental history, histories of transwar fascism, as well as the impact of German-Japanese ideas and research practices in and upon postwar Asia

Publications and outputs

Robert Winstanley-Chesters and Adam Cathcart, ‘Fragmented Geographies: Tada Fumio and Japanese Imperialism in Manchuria, Mengjiang, and Korea’, Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 83 (Spring 2024), 23-35.

Robert Winstanley-Chesters and Adam Cathcart, ‘Encountering the Silk Road in Mengjiang with Tada Fumio: Korean/Japanese Colonial Fieldwork and Research Connections and Collaborations’, Acta Via Serica Vol. 7, No. 1 (June 2022), 131-148.

Adam Cathcart and Robert Winstanley-Chesters, ‘German Studies of Koreans in Manchuria: Gustav Fochler-Hauke and the Influence of Karl Haushofer’s National Socialist Geopolitics’, European Journal of Korean Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Autumn 2018), 131-141.