The first 10 volumes of Asia, 1860-1914 focus on the internal and foreign affairs of Japan and Northeast Asia between 1860 and the First World War. Topics include Japan's activities in Korea and the Ryukyu Islands, the Japanese Treaty Revision, the Sino-Japanese War and the Triple Intervention, the Russo-Japanese War, and conditions in Northeast Asia after the Russo-Japanese War.
China is the focus of Volumes 11-25, and its coverage extends well back before 1860. As early as 1839, Britain's China trade had led to the Anglo-Chinese (or Opium) War. In the treaty settlement three years later, Britain obtained the unoccupied island of Hong Kong and trading rights at four other seaports. Thus from the early 1840s, British consuls were deployed through the southern and coastal regions to form a network of information sources unmatched by the other Western powers. Dedicated career officers, they learned the language and reported voluminously. By the century's end, they were found in remote western provinces as well.