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History: East Asia


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


This survey course has the ambition of narrating the modern history of the East Asian region, not as a bundle of three different national histories (China, Japan, Korea), but rather as collection of divergent responses to shared historical challenges. The course covers roughly the history from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present. The rise of the modern nation state is one ordering principle that structures this survey of regional history. The belief in progress is another motor that spurred regional history into the development of diverse interpretations of modernity. Then and now, modernization is a rallying cry, but the tensions and upheaval that came with the modernization drive led to social and political revolutions, from fascist to communist, that affected and continue to affect the region.

Course objectives

In its most general terms, this course seeks to familiarize students with the modern history of East Asia and offer them a historical context for understanding East Asia today. This entails that students will have a good grasp of the general chronology of the modern era in East Asia; they will have a broad understanding of both the history of the constituent parts (i.e. China, Japan, Korea), and of the transnational dynamics that shaped the region. On a more methodological level, students will be encouraged to question received wisdom and challenge established knowledge by critically engaging apparently familiar concepts from new angles.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week, four tutorials spread out over the semester.

Assessment method

One essay (30%), a midterm and a final exam (together 70%)


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Jonathan Lipman, Barbara Molony, Michael Robinson, Modern East Asia: An Integrated History (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2011)

  • Additional articles for critical essays.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


A course syllabus will be posted on blackboard in the course of the first semester.