This course offers a thematic and chronological survey of modern Japanese history. The general theme of the course is Japan’s emergence as a world power in two phases, military and economic. During the first few weeks, lectures will familiarize students with premodern Japanese history in order to understand how established patterns of politics, structures of power, and cultural imagination conditioned the modern development of Japanese state and society.
In the rest of the course, we will explore several themes: the impact of Western capitalism, liberalism, and socialism on Japanese society and culture; “late” industrialization and its consequences; nation-state building and the emergence of the idea of the “social”; and the changing ways in which the Japanese defined their community: in terms of class, confession, empire, and nation. The course aims to identify Japan’s modern experience as part of a larger, global historical development.