The Two Island Empires: Anglo-Japanese Encounters 1600-2000 (HIH1606)

Staff - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the rich range of sources available that allow historians to analyse Anglo-Japanese relations, the history of British imperialism in East Asia, the history of modern Japan and moments of cultural contact and exchange more generally. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material, to consider its utility and limitations, and use it to explore particular topics and themes, such as British involvement in the so-called ‘opening’ of Japan; the despatch of Japanese envoys to Europe in the early Meiji period; the road from the Anglo-Japanese Alliance to the Pacific War; and how Anglo-Japanese relations (and the Second World War) are imagined and commemorated today. In doing this, the module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the nature of Anglo-Japanese relations.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of sources on the history of Anglo-Japanese relations.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates surrounding Anglo-Japanese relations.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Exact topics may vary but are likely to include:

Seventeenth-century encounters

The ‘Opening’ of Japan and the Meiji restoration

The work of Japanese envoys and the project of Meiji state-building

Cultural exchange

British observations of the Japanese at war

Interwar tensions and the war in the Pacific

Occupation and reconstruction

The ‘History wars’

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
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

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
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries60 (15 per commentary)2000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Beasley, W. G. Great Britain and the Opening of Japan (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 1951).

Cobbing, A. The Japanese Discovery of Victorian Britain (London: Routledge, 1998).

Farringdon, A. (ed.), The English Factory in Japan 1613–1623 (London: British Library, 1991).

Hellyer, R. I. Defining Engagement: Japan and global contexts, 1640-1868 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).

Nish, I. (ed.), Japanese Envoys in Britain, 1862-1964 (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2007).

Satow, E. A Diplomat in Japan: The Inner History of the Critical Years in the Evolution of Japan When the Ports Were Opened and the Monarchy Restored (London: Kiscadale, 1921).


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Key words search

Britain, Japan, Empire, Imperialism, Diplomacy, Far East, Encounters