HIS31280 Rise, Fall, Rise of Modern Japan

Academic Year 2023/2024

A hundred years ago, the European powers were at the centre of the world’s wealth and power. Within fifty years that position of global pre-eminence had shifted to the United States of America. This had led inevitably to realignments in the balance of power and new rivalries as well as new opportunities. About twenty years ago a more recent shift in the balance of world economic power to East Asia with Japan at its epicentre took place. With the largest surpluses in the history of merchandise trade, Japan had transformed itself into a financial and technological superpower and set a dynamic example for other East Asian nations to follow.

Despite war, destruction and occupation Japan, has since 1945, emerged as one of the world’s major economic and financial powers. This module will examine the impact of Western expansion in East Asia on Japan and how the Japanese responded to it politically and culturally. Also it will examine the consequences of Japan’s response to the West for other East Asian nations, particularly China and Korea. It will analyse the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural dynamics in Japanese History that contributed to its rise and to its role as a major power on the global stage.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of Japanese History and of its international relations with the Western Powers as well as its East Asian neighbours.

Assess individual aspects of Japanese History and Culture in their broader context

Present aspects of the historical debates on the relations between Japan and China and Korea and on those between Japan and the Western Powers.

Write scholarly major essay appropriate for a Third Level student of History

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture I: The Harmony of Tradition & Modernity and Continuity amid Change: Introduction to the Cultural-Political & Social Foundations of Modern Japan

Seminar I: First Encounters with The West

Lecture II: Reunification & Consolidation of Early Modern Japan
Japan’ Christian Century

Seminar II: Ukiyo-é : The Floating World of Edo Period Japan

Lecture III: Twilight of the Tokugawa Shogunate

Seminar III: How did the Unequal Treaties Encompass the Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate ?

Lecture IV : The Meiji Restoration of 1868

Seminar IV: Traditional Continuities Amid Socio-Economic & Political Changes

Lecture V: The Significance of Saigo Takamori’s ‘ Nobility of Failure’ (1877) in the Reassertion of Traditional Japanese Values & Culture

Seminar V: Reaction & Reassertion of ‘ Traditional Japan’ in the Modernisation Process : General Yamagata Aritomo & ‘ The Nation of Samurai ‘

Lecture VI: From the Sino-Japanese War (1895), to the Russo-Japanese War (1905), Japan’s achievement of co-equality with the Western Powers & The Annexation of Korea

Seminar VI: Oral Presentations by Students

Lecture VII: Auspicious & Inauspicious Times: Japan, World War I
& the Versailles Treaty Conference

Seminar VII: From Versailles to Pearl Harbour: Japanese Politics and External Relations

Lecture VIII: Sino-Japanese Rivalry and the impact of US policies and strategies

Seminar VIII: Japonica Contra Mundum: Japan and the Pacific War 1937-1945

Lecture IX: Postwar Japan: Premier Yoshida Shigeru: “the Japanese Talleyrand”

Seminar IX: Pax Japonica: New challenges and responsibilities for Japan as a regional and world power

Lecture X – Reconciling Modernity and Tradition: the Enigma of Contemporary Japan

Seminar X: Review of Course & Final Questions & Answers Session

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a small-group, seminar-based module. It is taught through a one-hour weekly lecture and a two-hour seminar. The weekly lecture provides an overview of the week’s topic, focusing upon key historical trends, debates and events. The weekly seminar is focused upon individual active / task-based learning by means of class debates, discussion and student presentations. Advanced research, writing and citation skills are developed through in-term assessment and end-of-term examination (two hours). Autonomous learning is advanced through student-led debate and discussion of set primary sources and / or student presentations. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
HIS20610 - Modern Japan

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: A Mid-Term Oral Presentation (2,000 to 3,000 words), and of 10 minutes duration in class, will form part of the assessment Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Examination: The Exam Paper is divided into two sections. Students are required to answer two questions, one from each section. There is a range of questions related to topics covered in the module. 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded Yes


Continuous Assessment: Active participation and engagement with topics in seminars. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the in-semester assessments will be given in individual meetings. Feedback will be provided on an ongoing basis on preparatory plans and primary and secondary sources for Assignments. Feedback on the end-of-Trimester Examination will be given by appointment in one-to-one meetings.

The Module Handbook contains an extensive bibliography and recommended readings. This will be provided to registered students for this module before term begins.
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 09:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Wed 15:00 - 15:50