Jonas Rüegg

Jonas Rüegg

Associate in Research, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University
Senior Research and Teaching Assistant in Global History, University of Zürich
Jonas Rüegg
  • Regions: China; Japan; Pacific World
  • Times: 17th century; 18th century; 19th century
  • Themes: Global History; Environmental History; Economic History; History of Empire; Colonialism; History of Science; History of the Book


Jonas Rüegg is a historian of Japan and the Pacific since the early modern period. He graduated from the University of Zurich before joining Harvard’s interdisciplinary Regional Studies – East Asia MA program in 2014. In 2022, Jonas gained his PhD at the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and has since been working at the University of Zurich as a Senior Research and Teaching Assistant in Global History. In Zurich, he teaches classes on the global history of environmental disaster, Pacific history, and Japanese history.

Jonas’ PhD dissertation The Kuroshio Frontier: Business, State and Environment in the Making of Japan’s Pacific argues that the Japanese archipelago, was ecologically and politically embedded in the making of the Pacific World. The piece shows that an oceanic focus on Japan’s turbulent nineteenth century offers new clues about the resources that enabled early modern growth, but it also casts a new light on the archipelago’s intellectual and geopolitical reorientation on the eve of East Asia’s first industrial revolution. Through the short-lived colonization of the Ogasawara islands under the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1860s, for example, Jonas explores changing perceptions of ethnicity, environment and national space, as Japanese leaders sought to position themselves as a colonial power in the Pacific.

Jonas’ further interests include book history, early modern Sino-Japanese exchange, history of science, and global history.




Rüegg, Jonas. “The Kuroshio Frontier: Business, State and Environment in the Making of Japan’s Pacific.” PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, 2022.

Rüegg, Jonas. “小笠原諸島探検と近代科学 Ogasawara Shotō Tanken to Kindai Kagaku [The Exploration of the Ogasawara Islands and Modern Science].” In Yōgaku-Shi Kenkyū Jiten 洋学史研究辞典, edited by Aoki Toshiyuki 青木歳幸, Umihara Ryō 海原亮, Kutsuzawa Nobutaka 沓澤宣賢, Satō Ken’ichi 佐藤賢一, Tanaka van Daalen, Isabel イサベル・田中・ファンダーレン, and Matsukata Fuyuko 松方冬子. Kyoto: Shibunkaku, 2021.

Rüegg, Jonas. “Currents and Oceanic Geographies of Japan’s Unending Frontier.” The Journal of Pacific History 56, no. 3 (2021): 296–319.

Rüegg, Jonas: “幕末・明治:19世紀ジュネーヴに於ける日本研究 [Bakumatsu, Meiji: Japanese Studies in Geneva in the 19th Century]” in: Ōkawa S. and Okamura T. (eds.) 国際都市ジュネーヴ:宗教、思想、政治、経済 [The International City of Geneva: Religion, Thought, Politics and Economy]. Kyoto: Shōwadō, 2018: pp. 62–70.

Rüegg, Jonas: "Mapping the Forgotten Colony: The Ogasawara Islands and the Tokugawa Pivot to the Pacific” in: Cross-Currents 3/2017, pp. 108-157.

Rüegg, Jonas: "Aimé Humbert: Wertvorstellungen eines Bourgeois und das Japan der Bakumatsu-Zeit" [Aimé Humbert, Value Concepts of a Bourgeois and Bakumatsu Japan], in: Asiatische Studien / Etudes Asiatiques 1/2015, pp. 47–71.



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