This subproject offers an innovative new research framework by bringing into dialogue two major historiographies—maritime history and the history of medicine—that have previously only engaged with each other from afar. The empirical base of the project is an extended study of Japanese and Russian hospital ships during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). These ships were sites of specific communities and served different functions. The Japanese hospital ships accommodated Russian prisoners and Japanese patients from the Manchurian battlefront, Japanese surgeons, Japanese, American, and British Red Cross nurses, and Japanese crew. The Russian hospital ships admitted both Russian patients and Japanese prisoners and were manned by a Russian crew and medical staff that was partly of German/Jewish origins. They were supported by Russian medical students from the Imperial Military Medical Academy and sisters of charity from the various Russian Orthodox communities.
On a theoretical level, the project combines an interest in conceptual history, history of medicine and social history. The ships' journeys offer historians a lens through which to examine questions such as the concept of “health” and “care” as understood by different onboard parties; tensions over the respective authority of medical staff and crew while on board as opposed to on land; the status of female nurses within the shipboard community; and the introduction of advanced medical equipment on board, thus making the ship also a site of scientific experiment.