Charles Schencking is a historian of modern Japan who has published widely on the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake, the Japanese navy, natural disasters, and war, state, and society. Before joining the University of Hong Kong, he was an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, a British Academy post-doc at Cambridge University, and a Yasuda Banking and Trust fellow. Charles is currently the Chairman of the Arts Faculty Board, a member of the university Senate, the university Court, and Mace Bearer for Arts Faculty congregations. As an immense beneficiary of international exchanges throughout his life, Charles also works closely with the Faculty of Arts Exchange Programme, which encourages and assists students to undertake international exchange as part of their undergraduate studies.
Charles has adopted a research-led teaching approach to his undergraduate portfolio, offering courses that reflect his research passions in 20th century Japanese history, the history of natural disasters, humanitarianism, Japanese-American relations, and war. His teaching seeks to empower students to develop and articulate original, evidence-based ideas and opinions about the past in clear, concise, and persuasive ways. Charles has been awarded a host of prestigious teaching awards including the HKU Faculty of Arts Teaching Excellence Award in 2010, the Australian Learning and Teaching Council's Australian Higher Education Teacher of the Year Award, Early Career Category in 2006, and the 2006 University of Melbourne Barbara Falk Teaching Award that recognized the university's outstanding teacher from among the Arts, Law, Education, and Music faculties.
Over the course of his career, Charles has secured generous research funding from the British Academy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Australian Research Council, and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. History is the discipline that best enables Charles to better understand humanity. He strives to convey this through his teaching and research.
Current Research Projects
America's Tsunami of Aid: Humanity, Opportunism, and Betrayal following Japan's 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake.
Following Japan's most deadly and destructive natural disaster—the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923—Americans responded to Japan's suffering with an outpouring of aid unrivalled to this day. My study explores the simple, yet poignant question: Why? Why did Americans give so much and what did they hope for in return? How was aid given and why is this case of American humanitarianism so unique? America's Tsunami of Aid illustrates how a complex set of perceived humanitarian obligations coupled with opportunistic visions for economic and political gain defined America's aid campaign for Japan. In doing so, it paints an entirely new picture of America's interwar internationalism, Japanese-American relations, and of 1920s America itself. It also revolutionizes our understanding of the American Red Cross, President Calvin Coolidge, and the origins of what I describe as the beginnings of America's humanitarian century abroad, 1918 to 2017.
America's Tsunami of Aid does not look at this extraordinary "humanitarian moment" exclusively from the side of the givers. Drawing on a wealth of materials from Japanese archives, this study also explores how Japanese officials and citizens used donated cash and materials. Importantly it also documents how Japan expressed its gratitude toward Americans through a series of soft-power public relations campaigns coupled with a frenzy of economic activity within America. When completed, this study will appeal to scholars and students of American, Japanese, and Asian American history as well as those interested in humanitarianism and natural disasters. It will also appeal to the general public. My study conveys a story that will make Americans feel proud about their international philanthropic past and hopefully, encourage everyone to rethink the importance of global humanitarian engagements in an era of increasing popular nationalism.
Teaching and Courses Taught
Research Postgraduate Supervisions