Spring 2025

Japan's Modern Revolutions: 1800–2000s

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-176  |  History, as HIST-176


Trent E. Maxey (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 176 [AS/TC/TE] and ASLC 176.) The transformation of the Japanese archipelago from a relatively secluded agrarian polity in the early-nineteenth century into the world’s second largest economic power by the end of the twentieth century is one of the most dramatic stories of modern history. This course introduces the history of this transformation through two “revolutions”: the formation of an imperialist nation-state and the post-World War II creation of a pacifist democracy. Situating these revolutions within regional and global contexts, we will pay close attention to the political debates and social conflicts that accompanied Japan’s drastic transformations. We will begin with the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, follow the rise of the modern Japanese nation-state through colonial expansion and total war, and conclude with postwar economic recovery, democratization, and the socio-political challenges facing the Japanese nation-state in the twenty-first century. Our goal along the way will be to explore in the specific context of Japanese history themes relevant to the history of global modernities: the collapse of a traditional regime, the creation of a nation-state, imperialism, industrialization, feminist and socialist critiques, total war, democratization, high economic growth and mass consumerism, including so-called “otaku” culture. Classes will entail lectures combined with close readings and discussions that engage primary texts, interpretive essays, and film. This is a writing attentive course with requirements including short writing exercises and topical essays. There will be a take-home final exam. Three class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Maxey.

How to handle overenrollment: History and ASLC majors have priority

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2022, Spring 2025