HIST242: Modern Northeast Asia

Course Syllabus for "HIST242: Modern Northeast Asia"

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Only 150 years ago, the empires and states of Northeast Asia—for many centuries far more developed than their contemporaries in most of Asia, and all of Europe, the Americas and Africa—found themselves powerless in the face of the military, technological and economic might of the European imperialist powers and the United States. Yet, today, most of these states have once again become key players in the contemporary world order: economically, politically, culturally, and, in many instances, militarily. In this course, we will study how and why the ‘modern’ transformation of Northeast Asia came about, examining both the indigenous and foreign ideas and institutions on which the transformations were based, and comparing how change manifested in different times and places. We will analyze many of the problems faced both domestically and internationally during this transformation, and will evaluate the prospects for the region in the 21st century. In order to do so, we will trace the political, economic and cultural development of Northeast Asia from late imperial times (the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries) to the present. In particular, we will analyze tensions within and between countries over power, status and resources, assess the challenges of preserving ‘tradition’ while attaining ‘modernity’, and distinguish competing concepts of ‘modernization’ and ideas about how it should be accomplished. We will also assess the importance of ideas and ideologies (such as nationalism, imperialism, communism, capitalism), and the ways in which they affected—and continue to affect—the domestic political, economic and social development of individual countries, and shape their relations with other states within and beyond the region. Using both primary sources (such as government documents, speeches and writings by major political, intellectual, and cultural figures of the time, artifacts of everyday life, still and moving images) and secondary sources (such as lectures and readings), we will attempt to understand and evaluate some of the past and present dynamics of this most dynamic region both from ‘within’ and from ‘without’.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-Specific Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the structure of state and society in China, Japan, and Korea during the late imperial era, and identify similarities and differences between them.
  • Analyze the domestic and international factors that catalyzed institutional and social change in Japan, China, and Korea during the late nineteenth century.
  • Compare and contrast the process, extent and speed of economic, political, social and cultural change in Japan, China, and Korea during this period.
  • Assess the relative influence of different ideas (indigenous, foreign and hybrid) in shaping social and political change in each country.
  • Identify and evaluate the factors that underpinned Japanese imperialism and led to the outbreak of war in Asia in the 1930s.
  • Classify and interpret similarities and differences between experiences of Japanese imperialism in Taiwan, Korea and China.
  • Explain the origins of the division of Korea after WWII and the causes and outcomes of war on the peninsula.
  • Account for the economic success of Japan in the post-WWII period.
  • Evaluate the relationship between authoritarian rule and economic development in Taiwan and South Korea, and compare their experiences with that of Hong Kong.
  • Summarize and assess the successes and failures of Communism in China, North Korea and Mongolia.
  • Compare the process of democratization in South Korea and Taiwan.
  • Explain the resurgence of China as a global power, and assess the impact it has had on the economic and political dynamics of the region.
  • Analyze the threat to regional stability posed by North Korea.
  • Identify and evaluate the implications of major political, economic, social, demographic, environmental and technological changes in the twenty-first century.

Historical Thinking Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Analyze and interpret primary sources.
  • Identify and explain possible reasons for ‘bias’ in primary and secondary sources, e.g. through examining who is writing, when and where he/she is writing, how he/she is writing (the type of language used), and for whom he/she is writing (who is paying and who is the intended audience).
  • Recognize that multiple answers are possible to many questions—that there is not necessarily a single, ‘correct’ answer (although there may be ‘wrong’ ones). 
  • In order to do this, you must learn to interpret and deploy evidenceto support or refute an argument, opinion, or idea. As you work through this course, you will be given questions and suggestions to help you critically evaluate the sources you are using.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:
√    Have access to a computer.
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
√    Be competent in the English language.
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√   Have completed all courses listed in “The Core Program” of the History discipline (HIST101, HIST102, HIST103, and HIST104).

Course Information

Welcome to HIST 242.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements. 
Course Designer: Alisa Jones
Primary Resources: The study material for this course derives from a range of free online content, and includes historical overviews, academic analyses and primary sources.

You will find much of it produced or hosted by:

  • Saylor Foundation (original content)
  • Japan Focus (academic articles)
  • Columbia University, Asia for Educators and Fordham University Internet History Sourcebook (primary sources)   

Requirements for Completion:  In order to successfully complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and its assigned material in the order in which they are presented. 
Note that you will be officially graded only for the final exam.  In order to "pass" the course, you will have to attain a minimum of 70% on the Final Exam.  Your score on the final exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  You will have the opportunity to retake the exam if you do not pass it.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.