Militarism, Authoritarianism and Modernisation: Japan from 1800 to 1945 (HIC2321)

StaffProfessor Alan Booth - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to the political economy and socio-political trajectory of Japan from roughly 1800 to the end of the Great Pacific War. It uses concepts drawn from the sociology and politics of development and from development economics to investigate how the closed, introspective Japan of the late Tokugawa period was transformed into a modern industrial society but one which turned its back on representative democracy and adopted increasingly authoritarian, militaristic and ultra-nationalist structures, symbols and practices.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. understand the main themes in the modernisation of Japanese social, economic and political institutions and culture together with very close knowledge of the areas selected for essay and presentation work.
  • 2. analyse, using methods drawn from history and the social sciences, the changing and complex nature of the Japanese state and society over the period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. analyse and reflect critically and contextually upon historical texts relating to a specific historical period or theme
  • 4. collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 5. with limited guidance, handle different approaches to history in areas of controversy
  • 6. work with primary sources under direction from the module tutor.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. show evidence of ability to read and use texts and source materials critically and empathetically.
  • 8. present material for group discussion and have respect for othersÂ’ reasoned views.
  • 9. with limited guidance, gather and deploy material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument

Syllabus plan

Theories of modernisation; Tokugawa economy and society; Internal and external threats to Tokugawa security; The Meiji Restoration; Meiji economy, society and politics; Taisho democracy(?); The militarism of Japanese politics in the 1930s; Manchuria, China and plans for domination of the eastern hemisphere; Defeat and Japan’s public memory of modernisation and war.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures11These provide the main outline of skills and knowledge that is required for this module and are delivered by the module leader. Further reading will be supplied on ELE and you will be expected to read widely around the lectures
Film programme10A programme of four feature films offers different perspectives on Japanese militarism, from the Japanese, Chinese and American viewpoints giving students dramatized accounts of a range of themes and episodes ranging from the honour of the samurai tradition, Japanese atrocities in China during the 1930s, and Japanese army strategy in the Great Pacific War..
Seminars11These provide the main opportunity for student-led discussion of the modules themes and for group-work. Guided reading will be provided on ELE and you will be expected to prepare fully for these classes beforehand
Guided independent study118Guided study following the ranges of exercises, assessments and readings. Information on what is expected will be supplied through ELE

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft Individual essay2,000 words1-9Written feedback through Turnitiin
Group presentation30 minutes1-9Immediate verbal feedback from peers and tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Essay1002,000 words1-9Written and verbal comments on formal submission

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual essay 2,000 wordsIndividual essay 2,000 words1-9Referral-deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: W.G. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism, 1894-1945, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1999 A. Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, Oxford, OUP,2003 M. B. Jansen, The Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 5, Cambridge, CUP, 1989. M. B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, Harvard, Harvard University press, 2002. P. Duus, The Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 6, Cambridge, CUP, 2005 ELE – Web based and electronic resources: Japanese National Diet Library on-line documentary sources Japanese National Diet Library on-line portraits

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – Web based and electronic resources: Japanese National Diet Library on-line documentary sources Japanese National Diet Library on-line portraits

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources: DVDs of ‘Twilight Samurai’; ‘City of Life and Death’; ‘Red Sorghum’, ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Japan, Meiji, Militarism, Authoritarianism, Modernisation