A Modern History of Japan, from Tokugawa Times to the Present
F 2017


As the US works to maintain its dominant position in  Asia, and as China's influence grows stronger and stronger in the region, what about Japan? By understanding Japan's modern history can we determine what role Japan might choose to exercise or be able to exercise in this increasingly strategically  important part of the world?

 In this sdg we will study Japanese history from the Tokugawa shogunate beginning in 1600 through the modernizing revolution launched by midlevel samurai in the late 19th century known as the Meiji Restoration. We will consider how the restoration of the Japanese monarchy remarkably facilitated, rather than thwarted, Japan's westernization and modernization, and its rise as a global power. We will also study the rise of Japanese nationalism and the Japanese empire, World War II and the American occupation, the  post-war recovery, and the economic and political roller coaster which has led to the  Japan of today.  In addition to understanding Japan's past, we will also examine Japan's struggle to define its role in the world, especially its relationship with the United States, China and its Asian neighbors.

Weekly Topics

1) Japan Before the Tokugawa period M-pp.5-20; G-pp.3-9 ; Outside Sources

THE TOKUGAWA POLITY (1600-1868)   McClain pp.20-153 ; Gordon pp.11-59.

2) The Tokugawa Politics, Governance,and economy  M-pp. 20-45; G- pp.11-34.

3) Tokugawa Society and Intellectual World M- pp. 45-112; G- pp.22-46.

4) The Collapse and Overthrow of the Tokugawa  M- pp. 112-153; G- pp.47-59.

THE MEIJI RESTORATION AND MODERNIZATION (1868-1890)  McClain  pp153-275; Gordon pp.60-112.

5) The Meiji State Between 1868-1905;  Transformative  Domestic and International  Political Reform M- pp.153-206; G.- pp.61-92.

6) Economic and Cultural Transformation M-pp 207-275; G-pp. 93-112.

IMPERIAL JAPAN AND WORLD WAR II  MILITARY AND POLITICAL DECISIONS (1890-1945)  McClain pp.276-515; Gordon pp.113-223.

7) The Trajectory towards  Empire  and Acquisition of Empire through the 1920s, inc. WW1.  (1890-1929) M- pp.277- 315; G-pp.113-122.

8) Domestic events affecting Imperial Japan  -  (1890-1929) M-pp. 316- 397; G- pp. 122-180

9) The Imperial State in Crisis: Japan's Decision to Join World War II (1930-1941) M- pp. 400- 481; G-pp. 181-201.

10) The Greater East Asia War - The Triumph and the Tragedy- Japan's point of view  M-pp. 482-515;G-pp.202-223.

POSTWAR JAPAN (1945-2017) McClain pp. 516-632; Gordon pp. 224-354.

11) Occupied Japan (1945-1952) M-pp.516- 561; G-pp. 224-241.

12) Post-war Japan (1952-1989) : Pacifism and High Growth M-pp. 562-598;G-pp.242-307.

13) Burst Economic Bubble, Collapse, and Change (1989-2008) M-pp.599-632;G-pp.308-335.

14) Current Issues for Japan, Both Domestic and International  ( 2008- 2017) G-pp.;336-354.Outside Sources.


    Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan, from Tokugawa Times to the Present, THIRD EDITION . Oxford University Press, 2013.

   McClain, James L..  A Modern History of Japan. W..W. Norton & Co. 2002.

Additional resource:

Murphy, R. Taggart, Japan and the Shackles of the Past, Oxford University Press, 2014.