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

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
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 hours of lecture and 1 hour seminar per week for 10 weeks.

Independent study : 130 hours

Total hours for module : 150 hours

Scope and syllabus

The following outline is illustrative and the content may vary based on student interests and availability of teaching staff.

  • Module Introduction
  • Modernity/Modernisation
  • The Emperor Ideology
  • Nationalism/Nationhood
  • Japan's Expansion to East Asia - an overview
  • Reading Week
  • Japan's Expansion to East Aisa - a case study
  • Imperial Democracy -social and political protest
  • Militarism/Fascism
  • The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
  • War and Defeat

Method of assessment

An essay of 2,000 (40%); an essay of 3,000 (60%).

Suggested reading

Core Reading
  • W.G. Beasley, The Rise of Modern Japan, 1990
  • K. Pyle, The Making of Modern Japan, 1977, 1995
  • A. Gordon,  A Modern History of Japan, 2002
  • M. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, 2000
  • J. McClain, Japan, a Modern HIstory, 2002
  • A. Craig, Japan in Transition: from Tokugawa to Meiji, 1988
Additional Readings
  • Pyle ed., ‘A symposium on Japanese nationalism’ [select articles]@ TJ%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F
  • Burns, Susan, ‘Constructing the national body: public health and the nation in 19th century Japan’ in Nation Work: Asian Elites and National Identities. Edited by Timothy Brook and André Schmid, 17–50. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.
  • Duus, Peter, 'Japanese informal empire in China, 1895-1937' in Duus et al. eds., The Japanese informal empire in China, 1895-1937, 1989
  • Beasley, William, 'New imperialism and the war with Russia' in idem Japanese imperialism 1894-1945, 1987
  • Hunter, Janet, 'Popular protest and the working class' in idem, The emergence of modern Japan, 1989
  • Duus, Peter, 'Liberal intellectuals and social conflict in Taisho Japan' in Najita and Koschmann eds., Conflict in modern Japanese history: the neglected tradition, 1982
  • Wilson, George, 'A new look at the problem of Japanese fascism' in Comparative studies in history and society @ TP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Y


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules