Oleg Benesch
Anniversary Research Lecturer in History



BA (Alaska), MA (Reitaku), PhD (British Columbia)

Oleg Benesch is Anniversary Research Lecturer in History, specializing in the history of early modern and modern Japan. Before arriving at the University of York, Dr. Benesch was Past & Present Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.  He has spent almost six years living and researching in Japan, including two years at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

Dr. Benesch’s publications and teaching interests cover a variety of fields, including Japanese intellectual, religious, and social history, Chinese intellectual history, as well as the transnational history of modern East Asia. He has presented his research findings at academic conferences and invited lectures throughout East Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. Dr. Benesch is currently completing a monograph on the development of the ostensibly traditional Japanese ethic of bushido—the “way of the samurai”—from the late nineteenth century onward.



Dr. Benesch’s current monograph project, Bushido: Inventing the Way of the Samurai in Modern Japan, explores the historical development of the ostensibly traditional Japanese ethic of bushido (“the way of the samurai”). This book reexamines bushido as a modern invented tradition that was strongly influenced by Victorian discourse on chivalry and gentlemanship.

The subsequent development of bushido was driven by thinkers searching for a “national” identity in late Meiji Japan, and was appropriated for a wide variety of official and private purposes in the early twentieth century, when it became a key pillar supporting the ideological structure of the imperial state. This book also considers the reasons behind the revival of bushido in the postwar era, when comparable nationalistic concepts from the imperial period remain largely forgotten or ignored.

Current projects

Dr. Benesch is a participant in the project Civility, Virtue and Emotions in Europe and Asia, co-funded by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin and Kultrans, the University of Oslo. This three-year project will culminate in a co-authored volume to be published in 2014.

Dr. Benesch is also involved in a number of projects examining subjects such as the transnational history of Buddhism in modern East Asia, the notion of individualism in the process of identity formation in early modern Japan, and comparative discourses on civil and martial virtues in various societies.


Selected publications

  • “National Consciousness and the Evolution of the Civil/Martial Binary in East Asia.” Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies 8, no. 1 (2011): 129-171.
  • “Samurai Thought.” In Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook, edited by James W. Heisig, Thomas P. Kasulis, and John C. Maraldo, 1103-1114. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2011.
  • “Gunkoku shugi teki bushidō he no teikō: heiwa wo mokuteki shita Nitobe to Hiroike no gyōseki.” In Hiroike Chikurō no shisō to gyōseki, edited by Iwasa Nobumichi, 71-88. Kashiwa: Morarojī kenkyūjo, 2011.
  • “Wang Yangming and Bushidō: Japanese Nativization and its Influences in Modern China.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36, no. 3 (2009): 439-454.

Contact details

Dr Oleg Benesch
Vanbrugh College V/A/212
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 3602, External (01904) 323602