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HIS208: History of Japan

This course is an overview of Japanese history and considers how changes in political institutions, economic patterns, social organizations, and cultural practices took shape to transform the lives

This course is an overview of Japanese history and considers how changes in political institutions, economic patterns, social organizations, and cultural practices took shape to transform the lives of individuals across the archipelago. We will explore questions that contemporary scholars grapple with to this day: How did the role of the emperor transform from the 16th to the 18th century? Why is the samurai such a powerful symbol? How did a region poor in resources and largely isolated from the West emerge economically vital in the last hundred years? Why did the concept of progress become such a pivotal concern for the leaders of Meiji Japan in the late 19th century? What are the consequences for rapid industrial revolution? With an emphasis on primary sources, students will analyze this history in terms of those who lived it. We will read from the perspectives of a daimyo reformer and a low-ranking samurai, from an impoverished farmer and an affluent merchant, the emperor and a housewife. Open to juniors and lowers who have not taken a 300-level history course.