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Modern Japanese History


Admission requirements

No previous knowledge is required.


This course offers a general introduction to Japan-s modern experience from 1868 to the present. Popular images of Japan tend to emphasize how distant and different Japan is from us. In these static images, Japan almost seems like a nation apart, a nation without history at all. Yet history, and modernity, are not Western or Eastern; they are global phenomena. For better or for worse, the forces and processes that shaped Japan-s recent past were in many ways the same forces that shaped the rest of the world: industrialization, capitalism, nation- and empire-building, war, technological change, and struggles for political and social participation. At the same time, the global phenomena of modernity have combined with Japan-s particular place in the global order and its own local cultural and social evolution to produce a fascinatingly distinctive play on the modern theme. This course explores this complex history, keeping in mind the notion of Japan not as a nation apart but as a particular site in a global process of modern change.

Course objectives

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Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • mid-term examination 40%;

  • final examination 50%;

  • attendance and participation 10%

Those whose combined average of the above assessments is below a passing mark will subsequently be administered a combined resit examination (hertentamen) covering the entire course material. The outcome of the combined resit supersedes earlier results on the midterm and final.



Reading list

  1. Andrew Gordon,_ A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present_, New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003

  2. Sources of Japanese Tradition Volume Two (Abridged) Part Two: 1868 to 2000, Second Edition, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006


Enrollment via uSis is mandatory, for more information about enrollment check Links on the first page of the Japanese Studyguide 2010-2011

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Enrollment for A la carte:
Enrollment for Contractonderwijs:

Contact information

Dhr. Dr. E. Mark


This course is part of the “Keuzepakket Japanse studies”