Department of History

The Confucian World to 1800  (HIST 120-01)

Syllabus for Spring, 2019
  ICC 104 / TR, 14:00 - 15:15

text updated as of  09 May 19
Requirements Texts Handouts Lecture Schedule Bibliography

H. R. Spendelow 潘克俊, instructor

office hours: ICC 607 / T and R 15:30-17:00, or by appointment
GU website and Facebook

      This course examines the interconnected history of East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) from the dawn of human habitation through the end of the 18th century.  It explores three main themes: intellectual and material exchange, differing modes of economic production, and political stability, both domestically and regionally.

    Since the "Confucian" model of ethics, politics, and social organization is often taken as a defining characteristic of societies in East Asia, we will start by tracing the development of this system in China and its export to, and transformation by, Japan and Korea.  In addition, we will learn how people in each country responded to the introduction of Buddhism and Christianity, within the context of indigenous religious traditions.

    Also, we will investigate the shifting balances between those who make their living in the steppe, forest, or ocean, and those who cultivate fields or paddies.

    While each of these states experienced frequent domestic upheavals, relations among them remained remarkably tranquil (if not close).  Only for a few decades in the 7th century, the Mongol invasion of the late 13th century, and in 1592-1598 were all three involved in mutual combat.  We will look at the factors which promoted this stability, as well as those that occasionally overturned it.
   Lectures and readings will present a chronological framework of the development of these three cultures, while much of our work in class will focus on a close reading of primary texts.  There are no prerequisites, in terms of either background or language.

     The course has two basic goals: (1) to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the early histories and cultures of China, Japan, and Korea including conflicting, even contradictory, interpretations of these traditions/legacies; and (2) to use the specific study of this material as a means for developing more general skills in the discipline of historical analysis, as elaborated in the Department's statement of mission and learning goals.

Course requirements:
  1. familiarity with all material presented in lectures, hand-outs, and on the course website
  2. completion of all required readings
  3. a two- or three-page biographical introduction (ASAP) [ungraded] (first-time students only)
  4. one 50-minute mid-term examination (Tue, 12 Mar) [c. 15%]
  5. three primary-source analyses (due  05 Feb, 19 Mar, and 16 Apr) [c. 5% each]
  6. one short (5-7 pp.) analytical paper
    1. topic statement due Tue, 29 Jan [assessed but ungraded]
    2. prospectus (draft thesis paragraph and outline) due Thu, 21 Feb [assessed but ungraded]
    3. completed paper (final version) due Tue, 23 Apr [c. 40%]
  7. one 2-hour final examination Fri, 10 May, 16:00 - 18:00) [c. 30%]


  1. Failure to complete any of the Course Requirements listed above will result in automatic failure for the course.
  2. Students are expected to be fully familiar and compliant with the principles and practices outlined in the Georgetown University Honor Code.
  3. As of July 2014, it is University policy that "instructional activities will be maintained during University closures.  Faculty members should prepare for the possibility of an interruption of face-to-face instruction by establishing a policy within the course syllabus to maintain instructional continuity in the case of an unforeseen disruption. During a campus “closure,” the regular class time schedule must be honored by all campus departments so that students will remain available for those faculty members who wish to maintain continuous academic progress through synchronous distance instruction."  Stay tuned as I figure out how best to implement "synchronous distance instruction"...

Required  Texts:

  1. Ebrey, Patricia, and Anne Walthall.  Pre-Modern East Asia to 1800:  A Cultural, Social, and Political History, 3rd ed.  (Wadsworth / Cengage, 2014) [ISBN: 13-978-1-133-60651-2]
  2. individual readings, to be distributed
A list of recommended and library reserve books can be found later in the syllabus.  You may also directly access the list of readings which Lauinger currently has on reserves.

In addition, a number of hand-outs are distributed in class during the course of the semester. Students are responsible for the instructions, guidelines, and other information contained in these hand-outs. While printed versions will be distributed in class, students can obtain extra copies from the course web-site. This web-site serves as the definitive source for the effective version of all course materials.

Basic Handouts:
A. syllabus
B. lists of terms (distributed throughout the semester)

Supplemental Hand-outs:
C. "Class Protocols"
D. "Guide for New Students"
E. "Stylesheet for Term Papers"
F. "Grading System"
G. Reischauer "time-line"

Schedule of lectures and readings:

Readings, particularly selections from the basic texts, should be completed before the lecture under which they are listed. Assignments are of varied lengths, so plan ahead and pace yourself.

Click here for the current schedule