Modernity, Nation and Identity in Japanese History (1853-1945)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 4
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module is designed to develop students’ understanding of key moments in modern Japanese history from the collapse of the Tokugawa hegemony (the 1850s) to the end of World War II (1945) in regional and global context. The module examines social and political epochs such as the rise of the Meiji government, the social and political contexts of modernisation, the process of nation-building, the establishment of an overseas empire and the rise of militarism, and the Sino-Japanese and Pacific Wars. Students will consider English-language sources that cover historical narrative alongside visual prompts and literature as a means of examining the simultaneous transformations that defined the emergence of modern Japan.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  1. understand key moments in Modern Japanese history
  2. demonstrate an understanding of the main debates in the historiography of modern Japan
  3. identify the theoretical underpinnings to historical scholarship and relate the Japanese case to the global experience of modernisation and modernity
  4. demonstrate command of the state of the field on a particular topic and ability to design a research project on that basis
  5. present their work effectively in both oral and written form


Total taught hours: 20 hours. 1 hour of lecture and 1 hour semiar per week for 10 weeks.

Independent study: 130 hours

Total hours for module: 150 hours

Scope and syllabus

Please note that the syllabus below is for guidance only and may alter.

Week 1: Module Introduction
Week 2: Modernity/Modernisation
Week 3: The Emperor Ideology
Week 4: Nationalism/Nationhood
Week 5: Japan's Expansion to East Asia - an overview
Week 6: Reading Week
Week 7: Japan's Expansion to East Aisa - a case study
Week 8: Imperial Democracy -social and political protest
Week 9: Militarism/Fascism
Week 10: The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Week 11: War and Defeat

Method of assessment

An essay of 2000 words (40%); an essay of 3000 words (60%).

Suggested reading

  • K Pyle, The Making of Modern Japan .
  • W G Beasley, The Rise of Modern Japan .
  • Course pack


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules