SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H333 Urban Modern Eastern Asia (I)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

For the last few years, for the first time in history, more people on the planet have been living in cities than not.  Nowadays, eight out of the twenty largest cities in the world can be found in eastern Asia.  This course will use the region and its cities as the setting within which to explore the reasons for the explosive growth of the modern city and the consequences of its continuing development, not least for its inhabitants.  It will also question whether cities in Asia can be subordinated to and are converging on the story of global cities told in the West.

The course will provide both a general introduction to the modern city in eastern Asia and focused study of four major and very different cities: Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, and Singapore.  It will explore both the evolution of the city as a whole and particular themes in urban life, for example, social division, urban violence, everyday technology, and life on the street.  And it will do this through both the secondary literature and a range of primary sources, including maps, plans, and photographs; personal accounts, legal cases, and official documents; newspapers and magazines, fiction and film.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


The course is designed to provide students with a number of opportunities

  • to acquire a grounding in both the theories and methods of urban history and the empirical histories of the city in eastern Asia, and so to evaluate the claims of the former against the evidence of the latter;
  • to explore particular themes in urban history, which may include but will not be limited to: planning and architecture, work and leisure, segregation and violence, identity and multiculturalism;
  • to work in a team to present the modern history of a particular city, synthesizing the secondary literature in order to explain the development of the city over time;
  • to acquire training and experience in the use of various kinds of historical sources, to include search strategies and source analysis;
  • to design a small research project, identifying and analyzing a source (or small set of sources) in its relevant context to reveal what it tells us about the city at that point in time.
Learning outcomes of the course

At the end of a course, a student should be able to:

  1. demonstrate a basic knowledge of theories and methods in urban history, of the general history of cities in eastern Asia, and of the individual histories of key cities.
  2. demonstrate a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the history of a city in eastern Asia;
  3. evaluate and synthesize relevant secondary literature;
  4. analyse texts and images as historical sources, placing them in relevant context and identifying significance;
  5. design and deliver a research project, identifying relevant materials, analysing data, and presenting results;
  6. work effectively in a team, to divide labour, monitor progress, deliver results;
  7. communicate well-organized, and -supported reports and arguments in oral and 8. written form.


There will be 2 hours of contact per week, the main class session will not be run as a traditional lecture, but as a directed discussion of required readings, making considerable use of small groups.

Method of assessment

1 exam (50%), 2 x essays (20%), 1 oral presentation (10%) and a blog (20%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules