Faculty of Arts


Early Modern Japan 1600-1868

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for HISTORY 242.


Early modern Japan was a dynamic era of great peace, when the Shoguns of the Tokugawa family ruled from their towering castle in Edo, great military lords swept up and down the highways in spectacular processions and the residents of its cities came to enjoy a flourishing urban popular culture.

This course explores the voices and lives of Edo Japanese through the reading of primary sources in translation and a selection of secondary readings. We will take a generally chronological approach, but the course is also divided into three thematic parts: a general overview of the political situation in the early modern era, an examination of representative aspects of Tokugawa society and culture, and finally an exploration of the rising tensions that were a precursor to major social change in the nineteenth century.

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 will be briefly introduced, but will not be the major focus of study. Knowledge of the Japanese language is not required for this course. You will, however, benefit from engaging with a number of important Japanese names and terms in their Romanised forms. There is a glossary of terms provided in the textbook.

Class format and expectations

The course consists of two lectures and one group discussion tutorial per week, and a programme of reading and assignments which you are expected to complete in your own time. You need to engage with all elements of the course in order to complete it successfully. You are expected to devote around ten hours per week to this course (including class times). Lecture notes will be uploaded to Canvas prior to each lecture. You should add your own notes to these.

You are expected to show common courtesy towards your lecturer and fellow students. This means attending/leaving class on time, not talking privately/ sleeping/ eating/ texting/ browsing the web during classes and turning off your mobile phone. Teaching staff are here to help you. You are welcome to contact the teaching staff by email and phone, but please identify yourself when you do so. Please be sure to read your university email regularly, as important messages about the course are sometimes sent via email. 


By the end of this course, you are expected to gain:

  • A good general knowledge of the institutions, policies, major figures and periods that shaped early modern Japan
  • An understanding of the main social, cultural and economic forces and tensions operating during this period and how they played out in the lives of Japanese people

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Ellen Nakamura


Constantine Nomikos, Voices of Early Modern Japan : Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life During the Age of the Shoguns, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2012


HISTORY 242: 15.0 points


60 points passed



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