Dr Christopher Harding (BA, MA, MSt, DPhil (Oxon), FRHistS)

Senior Lecturer; Asian History



I grew up in London before heading ‘up north’, as it seemed at the time, to Oxford University. Following an undergraduate degree in History I was the co-founder of a company producing music for the computer games industry, before being lured back into academia via an MSt in Historical Research and then a DPhil in South Asian history, both at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

In 2004 I had the opportunity to go to Japan for a couple of years on a Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship, studying the language intensively, working on some comparative South Asia – Japan research, and training and working as a journalist with Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun.

I returned to the UK at the start of 2007 to take up a post at Edinburgh University, where I now research and teach on both South Asia and Japan. Since becoming one of AHRC/BBC's ten New Generation Thinkers in 2013-14, I have also worked in broadcast journalism for BBC Radio 3 and 4, including a four-part series on global cultures and mental health: The Borders of Sanity. I write for a broad range of publications - please see my personal webpages for more on all this.

Affiliated research centres

Centre for South Asian Studies, Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History.

Other contacts

My personal webpages are at www.christopher-harding.com

My Substack newsletter, 'IlluminAsia', is free to read and subscribe: www.IlluminAsia.org

I can also be found on Twitter: @drchrisharding

External appointments

Book and peer review for:

- History of Psychiatry

- Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

- English Historical Review

- Journal of Ecclesiastical History

- Journal of Asian Studies

- Funding bodies, including AHRC

- Academic publishers, including Routledge.

Undergraduate teaching

  • In Search of Modern Selves: Psychiatry and Psychotherapies in India and Japan, 1880 - the Present  (4MA)
  • Japan: Politics, Culture, and Social Change: 1868 – 1952
  • Global Connections Since 1450
  • South Asian Studies 2 (School of Social and Political Science)
  • 4MA Dissertation supervision, on Indian, Japanese, and 'East-West' topics 

Postgraduate teaching

  • Seeking Japan in a Westernizing World: Revolution, Romance, and Imperialism, 1868 - 1945
  • Historical Methodology
  • Approaches to History
  • Writing History

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

  • Donghyuk Kim, PhD, Missionary attitudes and influences under British direct rule in Mysore, 1831-1881, Lead supervisor
  • David Bonner, PhD, Japanese migration to the United States and Brazil, Lead supervisor
  • James Walsh, PhD, The Reception and Spread of Western Art Music in Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Lead supervisor
  • Jane Moore, PhD, Ainu in Modern Japan, Lead supervisor

Research summary


  • Asia 
  • Britain & Ireland
  • Europe
  • Scotland


  • Comparative & Global History
  • Culture
  • Ideas
  • Imperialism
  • Medicine, Science & Technology
  • Religion
  • Society


  • Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth Century & After

Research interests

In my research I explore the highly fruitful cultural dialogue that took place between the Western world and Asia (principally Japan and India) across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I focus on mental health and related religious and philosophical ideas, looking especially at the pioneering of new practices in psychiatry, psychotherapy, and spirituality. 

The image above comes from a manga by the artist Torisugari, who told me about his experiences with depression in an episode of The Borders of Sanity.

Current research activities

I am currently working on a book about Westerners’ search for meaning in Asia and Asian culture, from the ancient Greeks through Samuel Taylor Coleridge and T.S. Eliot to mindfulness and artificial intelligence. The book is due for publication with Allen Lane in January 2024, as The Light of Asia: A History of Western Fascination with the East.

Knowledge Exchange and Impact

For my Knowledge Exchange and Impact work, please see the links on my personal webpages:



Radio & Podcast


The Japanese: A History in Twenty Lives

(Allen Lane, November 2020)

(Penguin audiobook, 2020)


A History of Modern Japan: In Search of a Nation, 1850 – the Present

(Tuttle, 2020)

(US edition of Japan Story)


Mind, Soul, and Consciousness:  Religion, Science, and the Psy Disciplines in Modern South Asia

Co-edited with Soumen Mukherjee

(Routledge,  2019)


Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 - the Present 

(Allen Lane, 2018)

(Penguin audiobook, 2018)


Bukkyou Seishin Bunseki: Kosawa Heisaku-sensei wo kataru 

[Buddhist Psychoanalysis: On Kosawa Heisaku]

Co-authored with Drs. Nagao and Ikuta 

(Kongo Shuppan, 2016)


Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan 

Co-edited with Fumiaki Iwata and Shin'ichi Yoshinaga 

(Routledge, 2014; paperback edition 2016)


Religious Transformation in South Asia: the Meanings of Conversion in Colonial Punjab

(Oxford University Press, 2008)

[Oxford Scholarship Online - log-in/paywall]


Book Chapters

Harding, C.G. 'Introduction', in Mukherjee & Harding (eds), Mind, Soul, and Consciousness: Religion, Science, and the Psy Disciplines in Modern South Asia (Routledge, 2019).

Harding, C.G. 'Historical Reflections on Madness', in White, Read, Jain & Orr, The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health (Palgrave, 2017).

Harding, C.G. Introduction, Chapter 1, and Conclusion, in Harding, Iwata & Yoshinaga (eds), Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan (Routledge, 2014/2016).

Harding, C.G. ‘Religion’, in Suzuki Akihito & Kitanaka Junko (eds), Psychiatry, History and Anthropology (in Japanese; University of Tokyo Press, 2016).

Harding, C.G. 'India' [co-authored], in Lewis & Minas, Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (Springer, 2017).

Harding, C.G. ‘The Contemplative Gaze: Bede Griffiths and the Needs of Post-Independence Indian Christianity’, in T. Sarkar, P. Malekandathil & J.Pachuau (eds), Christianity in History: Encounters, Engagements, and Experiences (Primus, 2016).

Harding, C.G. ‘The Therapeutic Method of Heisaku Kosawa', Japanese Contributions to Psychoanalysis, volume 4 (The Japan Psychoanalytic Society, 2013).

Harding, C.G. ‘State of Insecurity: Self-Defence and Self-Cultivation in the Genesis of Japanese Imperialism’, in K. Nicolaidis, B. Sebe, & G. Maas, Echoes of Empire: Memory, Identity, and Colonial Legacies (I.B. Tauris, 2014).

Harding, C.G. 'The Freud Franchise: Independence of Mind in India and Japan' in Celebrity Colonialism: Fame, Power and Representation in (Post) Colonial Cultures, ed. R Clarke, (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009) 73 - 87 


Academic Articles

Harding, C.G., 'Buddhism, Christianity, and Psychotherapy: A Three-Way Conversation in the Mid-Twentieth Century', European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling [January, 2018]

Harding, C.G.,'Hikikomori', The Lancet Psychiatry, January 2018.

Harding, C.G., 'Culture, Sexuality, and Psychotherapy', The Lancet Psychiatry, May 2017.

Harding, C.G., 'Culture and Psychotherapy in Japan', The Lancet Psychiatry, January 2017.

Harding, C.G. 'Religion in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy: Exploring the Japanese Experience and the Possibility of a Transnational Framework', East Asian Science, Technology, and Society (Duke University Press; February 2016).

Harding, C.G. ‘Japanese Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: The Making of a Relationship’. History of Psychiatry; June 2014.

Harding, C.G. 'The Emergence of 'Christian Psychiatry' in Post-Independence India', Edinburgh Papers in South Asian Studies, 24 (2011)

Harding, C.G. 'The Christian Village Experiment in Punjab: Social and Religious Reformation,' South Asia 31(3) (2008): 397 - 418 


Selected Book Reviews

'Empire and Environmental Anxiety' [Book review], Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2015)

'The Language of Disenchantment' [Book review], Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October 2014

'Colonialism and Transnational Psychiatry: The Development of an Indian Mental Hospital in British India' [Book Review], Social History of Medicine (2014)

'Nothingness and Desire: An East-West Philosophical Antiphony' [Book Review], Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (2013)

'The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank' [Book Review], History of Psychiatry (2013)

‘The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910’ [Book Review], English Historical Review (Oxford, 2011).

‘Ideology and Christianity in Japan’ [Book Review], English Historical Review (Oxford, 2010).

‘Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present’ [Book Review], Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge, 2010).

‘The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion’ [Book Review], Journal of Asian Studies (Cambridge, 2009).

‘Christian Identity and Dalit Religion in Hindu India’ [Book Review], Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge, 2009)

‘Beyond Representation: Colonial and Post-Colonial Constructions of Indian Identity’ [Book Review], English Historical Review (Oxford, 2009).

‘Converting Women: Gender and Protestant Christianity in Colonial South India’ [Book Review], Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge, 2005).

‘Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication Since 1500’ [Book Review], Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge, 2004)


For my journalism and radio/podcast work, please see my personal webpages