HST6068: The Japanese Empire in East Asia, 1895-1945

HST6068 Image

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr Tehyun Ma

Module Summary

'Japanese colonial rule had a profound and lasting impact on East Asia society. We will explore the ideologies that undergirded Japanese colonial practice - such as assimilation, imperialisation, and modernisation - which reshaped not only the landscape of North China, Korea and Taiwan, but also altered the identities of those subject to their rule in ambivalent ways.' Dr Tehyun Ma

Between 1895 and 1945 Japan joined the ranks of imperial powers in East Asia, acquiring Taiwan, Korea, and ever greater portions of China. This module examines how the Japanese empire was built, run, and resisted. We will ask whether approaches to colonialism honed by historians of Western imperialism work in the Japanese context, and will consider too how Japan’s rapid modernisation, political development, and diplomatic and ideological engagement with rival great powers shaped its colonial policy. No prior knowledge of East Asian history is required to take the course.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Introduce students to the different patterns of colonial expansion, rule, and resistance in the Japanese held portions of East Asia between 1895 and 1945
  2. Explore and critically evaluate the historiography on Japanese imperialism in this period
  3. Examine key concepts and categories in the history of empire, and assess how they can be applied to the Japanese context.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  1. Explain patterns of colonial expansion, rule, and resistance in the Japanese held portions of East Asia between 1895 and 1945 (Aim 1)
  2. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the historiography on Japanese imperialism in this period (A2)
  3. Evaluate key concepts and categories in the history of empire, and an ability to test their applicability to the Japanese context (A3)
  4. Demonstrate confidence in expressing ideas verbally, both in individual seminar contribution and group work (A1, 2, 3)
  5. Express ideas and evidence through clear and perceptive prose (A1, 2, 3).


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two hour classes. The first seminar will introduce students to the course of Japanese empire-building (LO1) and introduce historiographical debates (LO2). Subsequent seminars will involve individual and group work around case studies with a thematic focus (LOs 1, 2, 4) with candidates using the Japanese examples to explore the writing of imperial history more broadly (LOs 2, 3, 4). Students will have the chance in seminars to discuss progress and gain formative feedback on a final essay (LO5). You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.

Draft seminar schedule:

  1. Introduction: Japan as a ‘Great Power’, 1895-1945
  2. Building Model Colonies: Korea and Taiwan
  3. Assimilation and Resistance
  4. Tools of Empire: Colonial Science and Knowledge
  5. The Japanese Empire in China: the Puppet State of Manchukuo, 1932-1945



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

Students will prepare a 3,000-word paper on a topic agreed with the tutor. The paper will be expected to draw critically on relevant secondary sources in exploring a historiographical debate or a new area of historical inquiry, and, if appropriate, will involve scholarly analysis of primary sources too (LOs 2, 3, 4, 5)


Selected reading

  • W.G. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism, 1895-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987)
  • Leo T.S. Ching, Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)
  • Peter Duus, Ramon H. Myers, and Mark Peattie, The Japanese Informal Empire in China, 1895-1937 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989)
  • Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004)
  • Michele Mason and Helen Lee (eds.), Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012)
  • R. H. Myers and Mark Peattie (eds.), The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987)
  • Gi-wook Shin and Michael Robinson (eds.), Colonial Modernity in Korea (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001)
  • Jun Uchida, Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876-1945 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014)
  • Louise Young, Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture or Wartime Imperialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.