Revisiting the 1932 Shanghai Battle (淞滬戰爭)

On 18-19 May 2015, the French Société Asiatique (Asian Studies Society) held its annual conference at the Collège de France on “War in the societies of the Orient and the far East.” The conference brought together a wide array of scholars across time periods and boundaries, from ancient Egypt to medieval India, from the Ottoman empire to Vietnam. This provided the “War made Shanghai” group to present for the first time a work in progress on the 1932 Shanghai Battle.

The presentation is based on unique Japanese military sources, including a full set of battle maps, a complete case study of the conflict produced for the training of Japanese officers, multiple visual documents, graphs, etc. The various materials have been processed through GIS into an integrated database. The main line of inquiry was to explore a core question: What does spatial approach bring into the analysis and interpretation of the Shanghai Batttle ? At this preliminary stage of analysis and interpretation, we contend that spatial analysis reveals patterns of warfare that highlight a combination of the use of modern weaponry (mass destruction, mobility) and past military strategy models (trench war) that reflected the nature of the battle ground. The contending parties met with a difficult and challenging terrain that played to the advantage of the disadvantaged Chinese troops and stalled Japanese battle plans and tactics which the latter overcame only through a massive input of weaponry.

Three people were involved in the preparatory work of this presentation, Christian Henriot (IAO), Zhang Peiyao (postdoctoral fellow, IAO), and Charlotte Aubrun (GIS specialist, IAO). The presenters were graced with the presence of two major historians of China in France, Prof. Alain Roux and Prof. Xiaohong Xiao-Planes (with whom they enjoyed a happy lunch).

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