HIST 1621 From Samurai to Superpower: Japan in World History I (also ASIAN 2261, CAPS 1621) (GLC-AS, HST-AS) (HPE, HAN)
Tuesday and Thursday: 1:25-2:40 plus discussion
Professor Kristin Roebuck
Japan was once a disunited land of warriors, poets, peasants, and priestesses. By the twentieth century, Japan was a global center of finance, technology, geopolitics, and the arts. How did Japan evolve from samurai to superpower?
We investigate this transformation in Japanese and world history over a two-semester sequence. Students are free to enroll in either semester independently. (All are welcome, but none required, to enroll in both semesters.)
We begin in early Japan: the birthplace of the sun goddess Amaterasu, the imperial court devoted to her, and the samurai who rose to rule under her sway. Early Japan was also home to con-men and courtesans, mischievous gods and warring Buddhists, the world’s first (and female!) novelist, and a surprisingly cosmopolitan culture of artists and scientists, comedians and entrepreneurs, human traffickers and international travelers. Our first semester exploring this eclectic culture culminates in the early modern era (1600–1868), when under samurai rule, Japan developed many “modern” elements that laid the groundwork for the revolutionary changes and superpower status examined in the second semester.
We chart Japan’s development not only through big events but also everyday life, delving into gender and sexuality, family and labor, arts and entertainment, and more.
HIST 1621 is the first course in a two-part course sequence. Together, HIST 1621 and 1622 cover the full scope of Japan’s transition from the age of the samurai to our present day. Students may take HIST 1621 without taking HIST 1622, and vice versa.