World History Resources for New Asian American History Course

James Ikeda's picture

Hello All,

I am in the process of planning a one-semester survey course on Asian American history for a Boston-area community college and am trying to design the course with a world history perspective in mind. Towards this end, I am looking for resources—including podcasts, films, and other supplementary media but also books, maps, and primary source sets—that engage with the global circulation of Asian laborers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To be clear, despite the course title, these resources need not have any clear relationship with the US. My intention is to explore each thematic unit through regional and global connections, locating Asian American stories in integrated, multi-scalar histories. I am mostly set with my other units but would like to flesh out my unit on labor migrations a bit more.

Any resources which my students could potentially use, or indeed any resources which could help me to develop my own course materials would be extremely helpful. Anything you can offer would be much appreciated!


James Ikeda

Hi James,

This sounds like a great course! One book I certainly think you should have a look at (if you haven’t already) is the Oxford Handbook of Asian American History (David Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma (eds.), particularly the first part on migration flows:

Something specific that popped to mind was the Chinese Labour Corps recruited by the British during the First World War. Here are some interesting sources you might want to consult or include:
• The Imperial War Museum’s collection of photographs (although only some are available online):
(This related podcast situates the CLC in broader wartime logistics operations from a British perspective, although the CLC is very much an afterthought:
• Jim Maultsaid’s remarkable illustrated diaries of his time in France with 169 Company Chinese Labour Corps:
• This superb blog has a rich selection of media and commentary:
• Several items in the British Library’s World War One collection, but particularly this brief report on the CLC from 1920:
• There’s this long article by Brian Fawcett that has some useful detail on how Chinese labourers got to France, although again from British/Canadian perspectives:
• If you’re interested in commemoration, there’s a (fairly slow-moving) campaign for a permanent memorial for the CLC in the UK called Ensuring We Remember:

I hope some of this is of use for your purposes, and best of luck with the course!

I think that _Forever Alien_ by Sunny Che might be an excellent source for an overall look. For labor migrations you might consider Patterson’s _The Ilse_, _Immigrant Entrepreneurs_ edited by Light and Bonacich, or _Caught in the Middle_ or _Ethnic Solidarity for Survival_ by Pyong Gap Min. It sounds like a really interesting class and I wish you the best.

David Rands
Department of History and Philosophy
Austin Peay State University

Gao, Jian. "Restoring the Chinese Voice during Mexican Sinophobia, 1919–1934." The Latin Americanist 63, no. 1 (2019): 48-72.