East Asia’s major nations changed dramatically — and in different ways — during the colonial era. China entered the period as one of the world’s most advanced nations but ended it in humiliating decline. Japan, a “closed country” at the outset, became a colony-holding world power. Korea was a colony or semi-colony until the 1950s, first at the hands of China, then under Japan. This course will look not only at how each country responded to imperialism but at how it developed domestically.
Our goal will be to learn the facts of what happened and, even more important, to work on our analytical skills: to attempt to understand how the East Asian experience fit in the era’s complex international framework. We also will examine the impact of imperialism on recent decades. During our stay in Japan and China, we will look for continuing signs of the influence of empire, asking whether imperialism exists today in a different guise. Classes will include a mixture of lectures and discussions, with readings focused on both commoners and elites. Requirements will include writing, discussion, and tests.
*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.
Field WorkCountry: Japan
Date: January 24, 2020
We will visit two war-related sites to consider the differences in the role the military played in Japan—at the beginning of the age of empire and at the conclusion of that age. First, we will go to Himeji Castle, Japan’s oldest and most impressive castle still surviving in its original state. Then we will visit the Osaka Peace Center, which has exhibits on the impact of World War II—exhibits that have stirred up considerable controversy in recent years. The day may conclude with a talk by a scholar of Japan’s mid-nineteenth century, when the country was beginning its serious engagement with the world of empires.
Write a 1,000-word reflection, divided into two parts. The first section should be descriptive and comparative, showing what you saw (and heard) and explaining how the two sites differed in nature. The second half should analyze those differences, along with any similarities, explaining what influence Japan’s experience with empire/imperialism had on the differing types of militarism; it should incorporate thoughts from the day’s experiences, as well as from what we have learned in class. Feel free to include photos, as long as they are integrated into the written reflection. The assignment will be due on Moodle on Day 8.
1. To observe the role military castles played as domestic administrative centers at the beginning of the age of empire
2. To observe the impact of the culmination of Japan’s engagement with empire in the wartime devastation of the 1940s
3. To reflect on both the differences and the reasons for the differences