This module explores the political, socio-economic and cultural consequences of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, a transfer of power that ushered in a period of rapid modernization and westernization. The foundations of Japan’s rapid economic development will be examined, together with the social impact of the Meiji government’s policies to centralize power and mobilise human resources. Attention will be paid to the widening gulf between town and country that attended industrialization, particularly the association of rural poverty with support for military incursions on the Asian mainland. The liberal trends of the Taisho period (1912-26) in politics and culture, particularly in the cities, will be juxtaposed with the drift towards repression and authoritarianism in the 1930s.
The module will begin by examining the causes of the Meiji Restoration, moving on to illuminate the chief elements of the reform programme that followed in its wake. The social and cultural consequences of Japan’s emulation of Western customs and institutions will be considered, together with the Meiji constitutional framework, which produced a plurality of power groupings under the emperor. Students will then critically appraise the ‘democracy’ and liberal trends of the Taisho period, paying particular attention to the activities and achievements of party government and the chief features of urban popular culture during this period. The final part of the module will seek to explain the rise of the Japanese military, focusing in particular on its ready constituency in the countryside.
Intended learning outcomes
By the conclusion of this module, a student will be expected to be able to :
(a) Demonstrate a deeper knowledge and understanding of Imperial Japan through reference to particular examples and broader themes, concepts, and debates
(b) Critically analyse and interpret a range of empirical evidence relating to Imperial Japan, locating it within an appropriate historical context
(c) Effectively synthesize and apply a range of historical evidence to produce convincing responses to historical questions, utilizing appropriate and accurate academic writing and following appropriate academic conventions