Faculty of Arts


Early Modern Japan 1600-1868

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for HISTORY 342.


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 text book.


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
  • The ability to read, engage with and interpret primary sources from the period in English translation
  • The ability to find, contextualise and interpret various secondary sources (in English) in the field of early modern Japanese studies
  • A growing ability to engage critically with historical and historiographical topics in the field and to present ideas coherently orally and in writing

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Ellen Nakamura


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


HISTORY 342: 15.0 points


90 points passed



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