Professor Aaron William Moore

Handa Chair of Japanese-Chinese Relations

  • Asian Studies
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Contact details



Asian Studies, The University of Edinburgh
50 George Square, Room 4.20

Post code


  • Prof. Moore is available by appointment.


Prof. Aaron William Moore received his PhD from Princeton University in 2006. He held post-doctoral positions at Harvard and Oxford University, as well as teaching as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Virginia. In 2010 he was appointed as a lecturer in the History Department at the University of Manchester, where he primarily taught modern Chinese history for seven years and was made Senior Lecturer in 2016. He took up the Handa Chair in September 2017.  Until recently, he has spent every year of his life in a language class of some sort, including Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Turkish.

He has presented his research as invited lecturer, keynote speaker, and chair around the world, especially in Britain and continental Europe, North America, and East Asia; recently he has given talks at Naples, KU Leuven, York, Berkeley, Academia Sinica, UC Dublin, SOAS, Yale, Liverpool, Max Planck (Berlin), Academia Historica, Vienna, and Leiden. In addition to English, his work has also been published in Japanese and Chinese.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Head of Japanese Studies

Research Director, Asian Studies

Undergraduate teaching

Prof. Moore typically organises coursework on modern East Asian history, politics and international relations of East Asia, and supervises projects on modern literature of China and Japan.

Postgraduate teaching

Prof. Moore is the programme director for MSc East Asian Relations and contributes to coursework and supervision in MSc programmes in both Japanese and Chinese studies.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Prof. Moore is open to supervising or co-supervising PhD students in the following general areas:

1. Modern history of China (1911-1976) and Japan (1850-1990), especially in the following areas: WWII, social history, history of childhood and youth, cultural history, historical memory, international relations, relations with the Soviet Union and Russia

2. Modern literature of China and Japan, especially in the following areas: life-writing (diaries, autobiographies, travelogues, letters, and memoirs), I-novels, science fiction, popular science writing, detective fiction, youth and children's literature. subculture literature

Interesting PhD students should contact Prof. Moore directly before submitting an application to the university.

Research summary

Prof. Moore is a transnational and comparative social historian working with documents in Japanese, Chinese, and Russian, as well as having extensive archival experience in Britain and the United States. His work has primarily focused on the critical analysis of personal documents in the modern era, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and amateur artwork. He has published extensively on the experiences of combat veterans, children and youth, and civilians enduring WWII, using examples of life-writing from the United States, Japan, China, and Great Britain. He is also conducting research on the long history of science writing and speculative fiction, as well as the social history of the 1950s in mainland China.

Current research interests

A long time collector of personal diaries, Moore is developing a manuscript on how educated Chinese people in former KMT strongholds came to understand communism after 1949, with a special focus on cities such as Nanjing, Shanghai, Kunming, and Chongqing. With Dr. Jennifer Altehenger (Kings College), he has organised a major international conference through the British Academy on new historiography of the early PRC, to be held in London in December 2018. He is also working on a comparative project concerning visions of the future in China, Japan, the Soviet Union, and Turkey from 1900 to 1970, provisionally entitled 'The Modern Future'. Working with Prof. Seth Jacobowitz (Yale University), Moore has presented initial research findings on pre-war Asian science fiction and speculative science writing across North America and Europe.

Past research interests

Prof. Moore's published work has mainly concerned the social experience of WWII, as it is known through personal documents. In 2013, his first monograph, 'Writing War' (Harvard University Press), Moore argued that Japanese, Chinese, and American soldiers used diaries to commit themselves to the war effort by engaging in what Moore called 'self-discipline'. Self-discipline in a diary is the diarist's attempts to shape his language in order that it might feel more authentic, and thereby influencing his views of himself, the enemy, and the war effort. Related publications have appeared in journals such as 'Twentieth Century China', 'The Journal of Asian Studies', and 'Modern Asian Studies'. 'Writing War' was positively reviewed in several academic and non-academic publications, from the 'American Historical Review' to the 'London Review of Books' and the 'Financial Times'. Moore's second monograph, 'Bombing the City' (Cambridge University Press, 2018), was a narrative history of Japanese and British civilians' experience of WWII, drawing deeply from museum collections, memoirs, and local history. Eschewing the traditional focus on London, Hiroshima, and Tokyo, 'Bombing the City' highlighted the similarities that are revealed through attention to regional cities such as Hull, Kawasaki, Coventry, Aomori, Liverpool, Osaka, Swansea, and Kofu. Moore argued that civilian support for total war was necessary for its execution, but consequently made non-combatants legitimate targets in the eyes of the 'enemy' and helps to explain the war's brutality. In addition to his work on soldiers and civilians, Moore writes on the history of childhood and youth, using personal documents by children and teenagers, which is the subject of a comparative monograph provisionally entitled 'What Can Be Said: Growing up in a World at War'. Using materials from China and Japan, he has already published his initial findings in 'Modern China' and 'Japanese Studies', including a special edition co-edited with Peter Cave (University of Manchester).

View all 21 publications on Research Explorer