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Semester 1

Modern East Asian History A (ASST08042)


Asian Studies





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Course Summary

'Japan and Korea in the Modern World' This is the most comprehensive course at the University of Edinburgh for coming to grips with the complexity of East Asian modern history; no prior knowledge of Japan or Korea is required. In addition to teaching the basic outline of Japanese and Korean political, social, and economic history, the course aims to impress upon students how inextricably linked the two countries have been, as well as their changing relationship with China.

Course Description

Now that East Asia has become one of the most economically, culturally, and strategically significant areas of the world, a knowledge of its past is critical. From the end of 'medieval' mass violence to the post-war era of rapprochement and rivalries, this course introduces many of the most important issues that you will need to cover in order to be to be a person informed about the complicated and fascinating history of modern East Asia. In each section, we will not only introduce you to the basic outline of political, economic, and international relations history, but also the impact these changes had on society and culture. Conversely, the course will show how social and cultural transformations forced shifts in government policy and East Asia became driven by popular movements in the twentieth century. Following the three main themes of social mobilisation, economic development, and political ideology, each lecture will show how these forces shaped the region, including Japan and Korea s relationship with China. The first part of the course helps students to understand how Korea and Japan, existing in a region where politics and culture revolved around the vicissitudes of Chinese power, built quite unique early modern political systems that ensured centuries of peace and stability. The damage caused by nineteenth century European and American expansion is explored through political, economic, social, and cultural lenses. Analysing fascism, democratisation, nationalism, and communism, including the era of 'total war' (1931-1945), will help us to understand how early twentieth century East Asia was part of global trends at a time when populism and mass movements reshaped the old world order. The course covers the Cold War 'peace', which included the Korean War and massive social protest in Japan, to understand how much American and Soviet interests influenced the region. Finally, only through a close examination of the normalisation of international relations, particularly with China, and dramatic changes in the Japanese and Korean economies at the end of the last century, can we come to understand how East Asia became one of the centres of global production, security crises, and cultural output.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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