HIS32620 US Pivots To Asia, 1890s-1950s

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module charts in 11 weeks the history of U.S.-Asian relations from the U.S. entrance into Asia as a colonial power to the legacy of the Second World War. It engages with comparisons and connections across a broad variety of U.S.-Asian relationships: their cultural, economic, social and political aspects. It asks how transnational and international forces between U.S. and Asian societies and governments shaped key dynamics of the global twentieth century.

Giving attention to the social basis of transnational and international relations, we will examine how and why U.S. and Asian migrants, lobbyists, NGOs and other private actors developed a sustained impact on global politics. In terms of ideology, this period saw a stronger, if intermittent, support for U.S. overseas expansion than ever before (in the Philippines, Japan, China and elsewhere). In economic respect, U.S. business capital followed and penetrated increasingly global, Asian markets. In diplomacy, Washington became morally and strategically entangled with new enemies, competitors and partners in Asia and elsewhere. In none of these developments did the U.S. act alone or necessarily act first. All across, the global dimension of U.S.-Asian interactions carried lessons and warnings of history.

Our discussions and analyses will incorporate that on any issue, at least two possible perspectives could clash. We will juxtapose the perspectives, interests, actions and arguments of U.S. and Asian actors to understand social, political and cultural counterparts. The course will be sensitive to U.S.-Asian configurations that paralleled developments in the Pacific and Europe.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to
1) Critically engage with the historical foundations of US-Asian relations today
2) Articulate the knowledge acquired with a critical mind and with eloquence (both written and oral)
3) Understand why the 1890s to the 1950s gave birth to the problems that continued to haunt the Asia-Pacific region afterwards
4) Select, analyse and contextualize primary sources in the context of their own time and place
5) Engage in analytic, respectful and reading-based discussion of thorny issues of U.S.-Asian relations
6) Produce, organize, progress in and complete a substantial research project of 4,000 words (final essay) on a chosen topic of U.S.-Asian relations

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
• active/task-based learning: primary source analysis
• critical writing
• reflective learning
• enquiry & problem-based learning
• collective debate

This small-group, seminar-based module combines a one-hour weekly lecture and a two-hour seminar. The weekly lecture provides an overview of the weekly theme, with a special focus on the divergent, international perspectives on every political event or strategy and its historical consequences.
On any issue, there were always at least two possible perspectives. Our discussions and analyses will juxtapose the perspectives, interests, actions and arguments of U.S. and Asian actors to understand social, political and cultural counterparts. The course will be sensitive to specific global configurations that connected U.S.-Asian relationships to analogous developments in the Pacific and Europe.

Each seminar will promote active and task-based learning. Analytic skills, including critical reading and argumentative writing will culminate in the final essay of 4,000 words. Autonomous learning is advanced through homework readings, classroom debates, the final essay and optional weekly reflections essays that can improve the participation grade.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Student participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Project: End of semester 4,000 word research project Week 12 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Combined 15 minute class presentation and 1,500 word essay Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
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?

• Written feedback on 1,500 words Essay Assignment • Written and oral feedback and advice concerning primary sources, secondary literature and historical analysis for preparation of 4,000 words final essay (individual student meetings)

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Mon 15:00 - 15:50
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Tues 09:00 - 10:50