Department of History

History of Japan I  (HIST 124-01)

Syllabus for Fall, 2017
   ICC 104 / TR, 14:00 - 15:15

text updated as of  30 Aug 2017
links updated as of 
16 Sep 2013
Requirements Texts Handouts Lecture Schedule Policies

H. R. Spendelow 潘克俊, instructor

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

Chelsea Hudson, assistant

office hours: ICC 600 / W & F 13:00-15:00, or by appointment

      This course begins a two-part sequence offering a general history of Japan from the earliest records of Japanese civilization through to the present.  The course is introductory, has no prerequisites, and assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or its language.  The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching Japan from a wide range of viewpoints, taking up political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and artistic developments.  In this Fall semester, we will cover the formation of Japan's social, political, and intellectual culture, including the formation of Japan's distinctive identity and the tensions between centrifugal and centripetal forces.  We will also examine changes in Japan's relationship to East Asia and, by the 16th century, the rest of the planet.  The course ends with the collapse of the last of the shogunal/military governments in the 1860s, paving the way for Japan's "modernization" in the 19th and 20th centuries.

     The course has two basic goals: (1) to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the history and culture of Japan, including conflicting, even contradictory, interpretations of these traditions/legacies; and (2) to use the specific study of Japan 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. one 2-3 pp. biographical essay (Thursday, 31 August) [ungraded]
  4. two primary-source analyses (Thursdays, 21 September and 26 October) [c. 5% each]
  5. one 50-minute mid-term examination (Tuesday, 17 October) [c. 20%]
  6. one short (5-7 pp.) analytical research paper [c. 35%]
    1. topic statement due Tuesday, 12 September
    2. prospectus due Tuesday, 10 October
    3. completed paper (final version) due Tuesday, 21 November
  7. one 2-hour final examination Wednesday, 19 December, 16:00 - 18:00 [c. 35%]

Required  Texts:

  1. Hane, Mikiso and Louis G. Perez.  Premodern Japan: A Historical Survey, 2nd ed. (Westview, 2015)  [DS 850.H36 2014]
  2. Lu, David J.  Japan: A Documentary History: Volume I: The Dawn of History to the Late Tokugawa Period (M.E. Sharpe, 1996)
  3. Vaporis, Constantine Nomikos.  Voices of Early Modern Japan:  Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life during the Age of the Shoguns (Westview Press, 2014) [DS 870 .V65 V2014]
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.


  1. syllabus
  2. lists of Japanese terms (distributed throughout the semester)
  3. "Class Protocols"
  4. "Grading System"
  5. "Getting Ready for the Test"
  6.  suggestions for paper topics
  7. "Introduction to the 'Prospectus'"
  8. "Guidelines for Term Papers"
  9. "Stylesheet for Term Papers"
  10.  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



  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. GU policy as of July 2014, "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.