HIEA 1501 Bakumatsu-ishin Syllabus

Course Schedule

Course Description: In the mid-nineteenth century Japan was on the verge of becoming the latest piece of Europe’s Asian Empire. By 1890, a short twelve years after the abdication of the last shogun, activists had overthrown the samurai government, elevated the Emperor, written a constitution, and created an industrial economy. In this course we will explore Japan’s great transformation from a samurai military government to a modern nation-state–from roughly 1700-1890. We will read the history of the fall of the Tokugawa samurai regime and the elevation of the Emperor, called bakumatsu-ishin in Japan (幕末維新), alongside works on revolution and empire in order to incorporate theory and East Asia into Japanese history in a more fundamental way. Topics will include loyalism, the exploration of western forms of knowledge and power, samurai activism, popular uprisings, merchant culture, millenarianism, nation-building, and the early Ishin ideology of “Civilization and Enlightenment.”

Course Goals: By reading theoretical texts on social and political revolutions against Japanese history we will explore the role of historical structures and human thought and action in times of intense change and interrogate the usefulness of terms like “revolution.” At the end of the course you will also be able to discuss the processes and implications of the rise of the nation-state in East Asia as a specific kind of historical entity and identity.

Required Texts:

Tetsuo Najita, Japan

H. D. Harootunian, Toward Restoration

George Wilson, Patriots and Redeemers

Nakae Chomin, A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

Najita, ed. Readings in Tokugawa Thought 3ed.

Requirements and Grading: This is not a lecture course. Discussion will be a large part of the course. Frequently, we will start class by writing a short paragraph or two on the week’s readings. At other times you will need to bring a short (250-500 wds), typed page responding to discussion questions. These will be used to get the conversation going. They will be graded 0-2. “0” meaning either didn’t read or has problems of interpretation, “1” shows understanding of the text and its issues, and “2” shows understanding of the text and relates them to our course themes.

There will also be a review paper of the theoretical readings (1250 words) and a film response paper (1250 words). Finally, there will be a final take-home question handed out on May 2. This take-home will be a final paper (2000-3000 words) due during finals week. Exact date TBA.

Here is the breakdown for the final grade:

Discusion writing and participation…………..35%

Review Paper…………………………………………15%

Film Paper…………………………………………..10%

Final Take-home Paper…………………………….40%