Sheldon Garon

Princeton University
Paris IAS
10 months

Research interests: Transnational/Global History, War and Society, History of State-Society Relations, Saving and Consumption, Gender and Politics, Social Policy, and Labor

Research Project

When Home Fronts Became Battlegrounds: A Transnational History of Violence against Civilians in Japan, Germany, and Britain in the Two World Wars

Millions of civilians died in World War II.  Many were deliberately targeted by enemies who employed aerial bombardment and food blockades to kill, malnourish, and terrorize civilians.  “When Home Fronts Became Battlegrounds” tells the story of civilians at war in Japan, Germany, and Britain, 1914-45.  This may be the most ambitious effort to apply the methods of transnational or global history to the study of the war.  Rather than examine each home front in isolation, the study shows how nations systematically investigated and emulated the home-front policies of allies and enemies. They concluded that victory depended on how well a nation mobilized civilians to support the war effort while protecting the people from air raids, hunger, and “demoralization.” 

The project also charts the transnational development of strategies aimed at destroying the enemy’s home front by bombing and blockades.  It connects and reinterprets such developments as the British blockade and German U-boat campaign in World War I; “air control” of colonies; international-law efforts to prohibit the bombing of cities; Japanese and German-Italian bombing of Chinese and Spanish cities (1930s); and civil-defense programs in Germany, Japan, and Britain.  The final chapters contrast Nazi Germany and Japan.  Hitler’s regime fought the finish, despite devastating air raids, whereas the Japanese home front collapsed as terrorized and hungry civilians fled the cities in the face of U.S. bombing and blockade.


Sheldon Garon is the Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University.  A specialist in modern Japanese history, he also writes transnational/global history that spotlights the flow of ideas and institutions between Asia, Europe, and the United States. His book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, has received global attention because it suggests what Americans might learn from past and present policies to encourage household saving in Europe and East Asia.  

He is currently writing a transnational history of “home fronts” in Japan, Germany, and Britain in World War II, focusing on aerial bombardment, food insecurity, and civilian “morale.”  His work on Japanese history likewise probes relationships between state and society in the areas of labor, women’s movements, prostitution, welfare policies, religion, and “moral suasion” campaigns. 

He received the Humboldt Research Award and has held fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Woodrow Wilson International Center, and National Endowment for the Humanities.