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HUM Seminar Body, Health and Disease in Early Modern Japan


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students.


This course aims to explore views of the body, health and disease in Japanese history, with a particular focus on early modern or Edo-period Japan (1600-1868). What did people consider a ‘healthy’ life-style? How did they tackle epidemics and disease? What did they know about the body’s workings? What kind of medicine was practiced and who could practice it? These are some of the issues that we will tackle based on readings of primary and secondary sources; topics to be discussed include the female body and pregnancy; health and food; anatomy and ‘Dutch medicine’; traditional Chinese healing methods; and diseases from measles to syphilis. Students will have the opportunity to reflect on how seemingly ‘natural’ biological concepts such as the body, health and disease need to be understood as cultural categories that may have very different meanings across time.

Course objectives

Students will be able to

  • Identify key paradigms of the medical body, health and disease in early modern Japan.

  • Critically analyse historical sources and secondary materials.

  • Learn how to articulate evidence-based arguments in discussions and in writing.

  • Marshal basic analytical and theoretical tools to approach the body in history.

  • Reflect on the cultural trappings of their own attitudes towards the body.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation (30%) - Students are expected to participate actively in discussions and group exercises and prepare weekly readings.

  • Midterm quiz (20%)

  • Research Paper Presentation (10%) Research Paper (40%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average.


There is a two-deadline policy for all papers; for those who miss this deadline, this means they have failed on the first attempt. Those who fail on the first attempt—whether by not submitting a paper by the first deadline, or by submitting an inadequate paper—will have one more (second and last) chance to submit their paper by the second deadline.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The required readings are either available on the digital course bookshelf or in the digital reader, as are some of the further readings that will be useful for essays.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


Not applicable.