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Sample Syllabus: History 645

History 645
Reading Seminar: East Asia

Fall 2007
M 6:00-9:15 pm
DRAKE 0234

Instructor: Dr. Takashi Nishiyama

Office: FOB 141
TEL: (585) 395-5687
FAX: (585) 395-2620
Office Hours: MWF 11:00am-12:20pm


Course Description

The course is a reading seminar intended for graduate students majoring in history. The focus of the course is on recently published monographs and a collection of essays on modern Chinese and Japanese history. The subject matter represented in the works to be examined in History 645 ranges from social history to diplomatic history, cultural history, women in society, economic development, and political history. In this sense, each work is a good representative of its vein of scholarship in the field of modern Japanese and Chinese history. At the same time, I intend to present the best, fairly recent works by selecting monographs that have been and/or are likely to remain influential.

Course Requirements
All students must be officially enrolled in the course. Enrolling officially and on time is the sole responsibility of each student. All students are expected to have active e-mail accounts. Audio or video recording of lectures is not permitted without prior consultation with the instructor. Students are responsible for all assigned course work regardless of the number of absences, whether excused or unexcused. No outside research is necessary to satisfactorily complete any of the assignments below. We will be reading and examining seven books altogether.


General participation


Leading common readings (15% per session)


3 Book reviews (8% per review)


Final project


Participation and Leading Common Readings
Twice during the semester, each student is to lead an in-class discussion. Two students will be assigned to every class session; they can team up and collectively lead the entire class on the nights they signed up for. At the start of each class session, the two assigned for that night will distribute a handout outlining the topics of discussion and a list of questions—and give a 10 minute presentation about the reading for the week. Try to “think big” and ask big, theoretical questions; also, try to be argumentative and provocative in your questions for the audience. One of the provocative diversions of studying history involves asking about hypothetical possibilities. Granted, this leads to a neither verifiable nor conclusive end, but it is a heuristically useful and constructive way of sharpening the focus on the issue and viewing it from a different perspective.

Book Reviews
Apart from attending regularly and participating in class discussions, each student is to choose three (3) books from Auslin, Dower, Fay, Iriye, and Reed and write reviews of them. No paper should exceed six (6) double-spaced typed pages in length. Each paper, roughly five (5) double-spaced pages in length, should present the thesis or argument of the author and comment on the book’s intellectual coherence, analytical framework, quality and range of source materials used, and inherent value as perceived by you the reviewer. A summary of the book should be kept to a minimum (i.e., no more than two-thirds of the review). Shortcomings of analysis or logic, if any, should be identified—but be sure to remain fair, specific, and constructive in your criticism. One question worth asking is: in your opinion, what could the author have done to improve the quality of the product?

Book reviews in print are due at the start of class on the following dates:
Reviews on Iriye’s Power and Culture due on September 24
Reviews on Dower’s War without Mercy on October 8
Reviews on Auslin’s Negotiating with Imperialism on October 29
Reviews on Fay’s The Opium Wars on November 12
Reviews on Reed’s Gutenberg in Shanghai on November 26

Final Project
Each student is to write a 12-15 page synthesis paper based on the writings by Auslin, Dower, Fay, Iriye, Reed, and Young (in Mirror of Modernity, pp. 95-109). In your work, be sure to compare and contrast how these authors view “imperialism” in modern China and Japan. Questions worth asking include: According to these authors, what is “imperialism”? What are some of its important components? How could “imperialism” be constructed and why? Who could be active participants in that process and why? How did “imperialism” influence the formation of state, diplomacy, war and peace, or culture in modern China and Japan? Students are welcome to construct their own questions and answer them in their work; in that case, be sure to consult the instructor ahead of time for approval on them before writing the paper.


Michael R. Auslin, Negotiating with Imperialism: The Unequal Treaties and the Culture
of Japanese Diplomacy(Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 2004)
Peter Ward Fay, The Opium War, 1840-1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the
Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the War by Which They Forced Her
Gates (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1998).
John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (Pantheon
Books: New York, 1986)
Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, ed., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge:
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992)
Akira Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese American-War, 1941-1945 (Cambridge,
Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981)
Christopher A. Reed, Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876-1937
(Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2004)
Stephen Vlastos, ed., Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan
(Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1998)

Weekly Reading

Week 1: 8/27



Week 2: 9/3

No class


Week 3: 9/10

Discussion based on The Invention of Tradition (all) and Mirror of Modernity (Chapters: 1, 2, 4, 7, 12, 13, 17, and 18)


Week 4: 9/17

Discussion based on Iriye’s Power and Culture, pp. vii-148, 261-end


Week 5: 9/24

Discussion based on Iriye’s Power and Culture, pp. vii-ix, 149-end


Week 6: 10/1

Discussion based on Dower’s War without Mercy, pp. ix-200


Week 7: 10/8

Discussion based on Dower’s War without Mercy, pp. ix-xii, 181-end


Week 8: 10/15

No class


Week 9: 10/22

Discussion based on Auslin’s Negotiating with Imperialism, pp. 1-117


Week 10: 10/29

Discussion based on Auslin’s Negotiating with Imperialism, pp. 118-end


Week 11: 11/5

Discussion based on Fay’s The Opium Wars, pp. ix-210,


Week 12: 11/12

Discussion based on Fay’s The Opium Wars, pp. 210-end


Week 13: 11/19

Discussion based on Reed’s Gutenberg in Shanghai, pp. xi-127


Week 14: 11/26

Discussion based on Reed’s Gutenberg in Shanghai, pp. 128-end


Week 15: 12/3

Discussion based on writings by Auslin, Dower, Fay, Iriye, Reed, and Young

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Last Updated 7/21/10


Our sincere congratulations to Matty Lynn Kuhar who won the 2016 School of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Award!

Dr. Alison Parker has been invited to be this year's Harriet Jacobs Lecturer at Purdue University. Her talk is entitled Mary Church Terrell, Black Women, and the Rise of the Democratic Party. 

Dr. Nishiyama has been invited to give a talk (title "Kamikaze Technology and Culture for War: Japan and the USA, 1941-2001") at the RIT.

Dr. Alison Parker facilitated significant donation of historical papers to Oberlin College and participates in its celebratory symposium on the life of racial justice advocate Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

Congratulations to Dr. Jose R. Torre on winning the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching!


History Forum will host Region 11&12 Meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, on 4/30 (Saturday, from 9am to about 4pm) at McCue Auditorium (LAB104).

History Department Graduation Ceremony will be held in New York Room, Cooper Hall, at 10:30 am, May 14 (Saturday).