'Co-prosperity' or 'commonwealth'? : Japan, Britain and Burma 1940-1945
The entry of Japanese forces into Southeast Asia in 1940 and 1941, now generally identified as one of the vital causes of the Pacific War, and the following Japanese interregnum in the region during the war have been the focus of a considerable volume of studies. In particular, the causation and motivation behind Japanese expansion into Southeast Asia has been a matter of much historiographical and public debate in recent years. This thesis aims to clarify the goals behind Japanese policy and explore how it evolved both prior to and during the war, and how it in turn affected British policy. This study explores these subjects with particular focus on the following issues. It examines how the idea of building a 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere' developed as the rationale for Japanese policy and to what extent the Japanese pre-war and wartime policy to nurture nationalist aspirations in Southeast Asia was driven by the ideological claims behind this concept. It also assesses how the Japanese southern expansion and the following occupation influenced British policy towards Southeast Asia, where Britain faced the rise of a number of active nationalist movements. These questions considered at the general level are also examined through a case study of Burma which provides an interesting example for the analysis of the real motives and intentions behind Japanese policy as well as for studying its impact on British policy planning to maintain its presence in the region.