SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

History of Korea to the late 19th Century (PG)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2021/2022
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will be a survey of the political, social, economic and cultural history of Korea from early state formation in the last centuries BCE to the late 19th century.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. understand the larger developments in Korean history from early state formation to the late nineteenth century in terms of politics, society, economy and culture
  2. understand how historical issues are contested within contemporary Korean society and how the legacy of past events affects Korea today
  3. address Korea-related questions with a good understanding of the historical context
  4. gather and analyse informatuion from secondary sources to build up a well-informed and original argument
  5. formulate appropriate research questions, propose and evaluate analyses and present evidence (for and/or against) the analyses
  6. use appropriate research techniques, such as finding relevant materials in the library and through web-based archives


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hour lecture per week.

Scope and syllabus

1. Pre-history and early state formation

2. The Three Kingdoms Period

3. Silla and Parhae

4. Early Koryo

5. Late Koryo

6. Koryo-Choson transition

7. Early Choson

8. Late Choson

9. Early nineteenth century

10. Late nineteenth century

Method of assessment

A critical source commentary paper of 1000 words to be submitted on days 1, week 7 in the term of teaching (20%); a essay of 3000 word to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term following teaching (80%).

Suggested reading

Core Reading

  • Michael J. Seth, A Concise History of Korea: From the Neolitithic Period through the Nineteenth Century
  • Peter H. Lee ed., Sourcebook of Korean Civilization Volume 1: From Early Times to the Sixteenth Century
  • Peter H. Lee ed., Sourcebook of Korean Civilization Volume 2: From the Seventeenth Century to the Modern

Additional Reading

  • Gina L. Barnes, State Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives
  • Hyung Il Pai, Constructing "Korean" Origins: A critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories
  • Sem Vermeersch, The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism During the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392)
  • Edward Shultz, Generals and Scholars: Military Rule in Medieval Korea
  • John B. Duncan, The Origins of the Choson Dynasty
  • Martina Deuchler, The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology
  • JaHyun Kim Haboush, The Confucian Kingship in Korea: Yongjo and the Politics of Sagacity
  • James B. Lewis, Frontier Contact between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan
  • Jisoo M. Kim, The Emotions of Justice: Gender, Status, and Legal Performance in Choson Korea
  • Eugene Y. Park, Between Dreams and Reality: The Military Examination in Late Choson Korea, 1600-1894
  • Andrew David Jackson, The 1728 Musin Rebellion: Politics and Plotting in Eighteenth-Century Korea
  • Sun Joo Kim, Marginality and Subversion in Korea: The Hong Kyongnae Rebellion of 1812
  • James B. Palais, Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea
  • Martina Deuchler, Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875-1885


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules