"Conquerors, Employers and Arbiters: States and Shifts in Labour Relations, 1500–2000", IRSH latest Special Issue (vol 61 no 24, December 2016), for example presents a research article on the Rōmusha by Takuma Melber.
During World War II, Japan, as occupying power, mobilized thousands of labourers in South East Asia.
While the history of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) deployed as forced labourers on the Burma-Siam “Death Railway” is well known, the coercive labour recruitment of local inhabitants as so-called rōmusha has, until today, remained an almost completely untold story.
This article introduces rōmusha, with a particular focus on the Burma-Siam Railway, and presents the methods used by the occupying powers to recruit local inhabitants in Java, Malaya, and Singapore, initially as volunteers, and increasingly using force.
The locals were able to deploy tactics and strategies of avoidance. The article offers insights into the poor working conditions on the railway, discusses the body count, and gives an idea of the huge impact of the forced labour recruitment not only in economic terms, but also in terms of the effect it had on the social structure at both the micro and macro levels.
Conquerors, Employers and Arbiters: States and Shifts in Labour Relations, 1500–2000 Edited by Karin Hofmeester, Gijs Kessler, and Christine Moll-Murata includes:
Karin Hofmeester, Gijs Kessler, and Christine Moll-Murata: Introduction
Christine Moll-Murata Tributary Labour Relations in China During the Ming-Qing Transition (Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries)
Dmitry Khitrov Tributary Labour in the Russian Empire in the Eighteenth Century: Factors in Development
Raquel Gil Montero and Paula C. Zagalsky Colonial Organization of Mine Labour in Charcas (Present-Day Bolivia) and Its Consequences (Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries)
Rossana Barragán Romano Dynamics of Continuity and Change: Shifts in Labour Relations in the Potosí Mines (1680–1812)
Filipa Ribeiro da Silva Political Changes and Shifts in Labour Relations in Mozambique, 1820s–1920s
Elise van Nederveen-Meerkerk Grammar of Difference? The Dutch Colonial State, Labour Policies, and Social Norms on Work and Gender, c.1800–1940
Takuma Melber The Labour Recruitment of Local Inhabitants as Rōmusha in Japanese-Occupied South East Asia
Fernando Mendiola The Role of Unfree Labour in Capitalist Development: Spain and its Empire, Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries
M. Erdem Kabadayı Working for the State in the Urban Economies of Ankara, Bursa, and Salonica: From Empire to Nation State, 1840s–1940s
Max Koch The Role of the State in Employment and Welfare Regulation: Sweden in European Context
Raquel Varela State Policies Towards Precarious Work: Employment and Unemployment in Contemporary Portugal
IRSH is published for the International Institute of Social History by Cambridge University Press