Fears of Japanese aggression in wool trade

July 25, 2013
Fears of Japanese aggression in wool trade

A Murdoch University researcher has uncovered a little known nugget of Australian history about a Japanese push to challenge the nation's wool dominance in the early 20th century.

Dr James Boyd of Murdoch University's Asia Research Centre said he became curious about Japanese plans to crossbreed a Merino sheep with a hearty Mongolian breed during the 1930s after being asked about the story at a conference.

"Out of pure curiosity, I typed the words Mongolia, Japan, Australia and sheep into the newspaper archives for the 1930s. To my surprise, hundreds of newspaper articles came up," Dr Boyd said.

"It turns out that fear of a Japanese challenge to the trade was a very real concern. This may be because Australia was coming out of the Great Depression, which hit the nation very hard, and agriculture played such a big role in the economy."

Dr Boyd said investigations into Japanese archives revealed that the scheme was real and part of the country's 'humanitarian imperialism' in Mongolia.

"Japan set up a fairly substantial program to improve animal science and husbandry in Mongolia. The program got off to a bit of a rocky start, however, with claims that some of the sheep from the first shipments of Merinos were eaten by the locals, but it carried on well into the 1940s," he said.

Dr Boyd said fear of the project ebbed and flowed throughout the decade.

In the first years of the 1930s, the Australian Government went so far as to impose a trade embargo on the export of Merino rams, which led the Japanese to source the animals from South Africa and the United States.

Tensions lessened in the mid-1930s due to two on-the-ground investigations.

"In 1934, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Frederic Morley Cutlack took part in the Latham Mission to Asia and looked more closely into the program, reporting that it was unlikely to succeed," Dr Boyd said.

"A year later, Ian Clunies Ross, who would become one of the CSIRO's early directors, was sent by the New South Wales Graziers' Association to do an 'expert survey' and came up with similar conclusions.

"Still, the story continued to be a source of public anxiety and media debate up until the outbreak of the Pacific War."

Explore further: Australian Merino sheep could fare better than expected over dry summers

Related Stories

Researchers name new fish species

April 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers from Murdoch University's Freshwater Fish Group & Fish Health Unit and South Australian Museum have officially named Australia's newest freshwater fish: the Little Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca pygmaea ...

Recommended for you

80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed

January 23, 2017

Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus. The work lends further support ...

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

January 23, 2017

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient ...

New ancient otter species among largest ever found

January 23, 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was co-author on new research that described a species of otter new to science and that is among the largest otter ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.