Students Han Xing Yi and Velusamy Sathia Kumar Ragul receive excellent review for their online repository project on the Japanese Army Occupation during World War II

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As their final project for the course 02.126 Southeast Asia under Japan: Motives, Memoirs, and Media, students Han Xing Yi and Velusamy Sathia Kumar Ragul designed a voluminous online repository for primary and secondary sources related to studying the occupation of Southeast Asia by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. This project has received an excellent review in the journal, Reviews in Digital Humanities. We interviewed them to find out what this journey has been like for them and what they learnt along the way.

Q: Why did you choose this course?

Ragul: I have always loved studying history! I particularly wanted to learn more about the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of World War 2 which isn’t as well written about as the European Theater.

Xing Yi: When I was in secondary school, I did not choose any history electives as I thought that history was a boring subject and I had no interest in it. However, when I came to SUTD and took the Social Sciences module, it kindled my interest in the subject. Ever since then, I had been more inclined to choose history-related courses to beef up my knowledge in the subject that I had ignorantly neglected in my teenage years.

More specific to the course, I wanted to learn more about the various forces that have shaped the Japanese war in Southeast Asia. I have grown up hearing stories, be it through books or oral histories, about the war and I felt that it was pertinent to contextualise these stories.

Q: What made you design this website? How did you go about it?

Homepage of the online repository on the Japanese Army Occupation during World War II

Ragul: Prof Sandeep gave the class an option to either submit a final essay or approach him to volunteer in a special project to archive past essays from his course. We volunteered. Since XY and I are also good at programming, we iteratively went from a purely manual archival process to using data science and natural language processing techniques to mine the essays for trends and anomalies. Prof proposed we build a website to make these insights more accessible for future students regardless of their technical background. The website was developed incrementally from then on.

Xing Yi: Ragul and I would not have had this opportunity to create the website if Dr. Sandeep did not broadcast to the class that such a project was available. Throughout the course, we have consistently been writing reflection papers where we submit a response that summarises our thoughts and feelings for the topics discussed that week. While I would have been comfortable with writing another essay for my finals, Ragul actually encouraged me to try something new and out-of-the-box, and so I did. The specific details have already been mentioned by Ragul for how we approached the design and architecture of the website.

Student interviews conducted by the students are also available as primary sources on the online repository

Q: How has this project made an impact on you?

Ragul: I have learnt about many tragic events that were set in motion in the 1800s and led up to 1945 atom-bombing after which Japan finally gave up its imperial ambitions. This is an important part of recent history and explains the cultural and political landscape in asian countries (China/Taiwan, Both Koreas, Vietnam most of South East Asia and to a lesser extent India)and around the globe. I have also taken interest in history themed Real-Time Strategy games like OpenRA (

Xing Yi: I think this project really challenged how much we can accomplish given a short period of time. I have learnt a lot about what it takes to create a website (it is actually my first time creating one! I only have prior experience with Android apps). I think what I am grateful for is that this website is able to help future students looking for resources for their papers, which is something that we have all been through in preparation to write an essay.

Online repository:
Review by Kate Mcdonald: