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Miss Annabel Storr

PhD Research

PhD Research in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures 


Annabel is a third year PhD candidate in Chinese History Studies at Durham University funded by an AHRC Northern Bridge studentship. She previously received an MA from Durham University in History, as well as a BA (Hons) in History & Politics from the University of Warwick. Her research utilises themes of identity and self-reflection to explore the complex evolution of British conceptions of China and Japan during the period 1850–1900 and the impact of this on British self-identity. She is particularly interested in the incorporation of digital humanities methods into historical research. Annabel was elected a Postgraduate Member of the Royal Historical Society in September 2022.

Current Research

Through the Looking Glass: The Place of China in Nineteenth Century British Conceptions of Japan

British conceptions of China and Japan during the nineteenth century were heavily interlinked, with an assumed high degree of cultural and linguistic similarity between the two countries. Yet, these assumptions came under increasing challenge from personal experience, which undermined the illusion of Japan as China’s reflection. Instead, British conceptions began to increasingly view Japan as an inversion of China, with the analogy of a mirror coming to be frequently applied instead to Britain. Japan in the British imagination shifted from China’s reflection to that of Britain, the ‘Britain of the East’. My research examines how British people used the idea of China as a lens through which to conceptualise Japan and the development by 1900 of a concurrent 'Japanese lens' through which these ideas were reflected back at China in British writings.

The core questions my thesis seeks to address are:

- How significant was China in shaping and influencing British conceptions of Japan during the nineteenth century?

- How did prior personal experience of China influence British conceptions of Japan?

- How did British people use personal experience to support their claims of knowing the ‘true’ China or Japan?

- How did citational practices and networks of referencing influence British conceptions of China and Japan?

- How significant were ideas of the relationship between Japan and Britain in influencing British conceptions of both Japan and China?

- How did ideas about time influence British conceptions of China and Japan?

- In what ways did the conceptions of travellers differ to long-term residents and how significant was experience in bringing about these differences?

Research Interests

  • Western conceptions of the 'Other'
  • Nineteenth century transnational networks
  • Victorian travel accounts
  • Newspapers and mass media
  • Digital Humanities

Under Review           ‘Eastern Isles, Western Isles: Trans-Island Identities and Geographical Imaginaries in Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1800–1868’, Journal of Historical Geography.


Forthcoming             ‘The Shadow Behind the Sliding Screens: The ‘Reinvention’ of the Samurai in Mid-Nineteenth Century British Travel Accounts’, in Samantha Perez & Matthew Paul Smith (eds), Cross-Cultural Encounters in Early Modern Japan: Foreigners within the Samurai Class, c. 1550–1900.

Papers Presented

'Plagiarised Experiences & the Allure of the Illusion: ‘Fake’ British Travel Accounts of Japan in the Mid-Nineteenth Century', 2023–2024 MMU PGR ECR Long Nineteenth Annual Seminar Series (26 October 2023)

'The Land Left Behind by Time: Intersections of Empire in British Feudal Imaginaries of Late Tokugawa Japan', The 1860s in History and Memory – Revolution, Reconstruction and Re-organisation Conference (14-15 July 2023)

'From Reflection to Inversion: Late Nineteenth Century British Conceptions of Japan Through the Lens of China', Britain and the World 2023 Conference (21 April 2023).

'Through the Mirror: Reflections and Distortions in Late Nineteenth Century British Conceptions of China and Japan', Cambridge World History Workshop (9 March 2023).

'Transnational Networks of People, Publications, and Ideas: British Asiatic Societies in China and Japan, 1872–1900', Oxford International History of East Asia Seminar, 19 October 2022.

'Networks of People, Papers and Ideas: The Role of the Asiatic Society of Japan in Facilitating Scientific Exchange Between Britain and Japan, 1872–1900', Transnational Studies of 19th-Century Japanese and British Science Conference, 14-15 October 2022.

Research Groups

Postgraduate Representative, Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies (CNCS):

Centre Assistant, Centre for Comparative Modernities (CCM): University