HIST 270 - Modern East Asia


The information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and attendance policies, may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.


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Course Syllabus

Course Description: 

This course explores the formation of modern East Asian nations and of the idea of East Asia itself in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It examines the interrelated histories of China, Japan, and Korea and the forces that forged modernity in East Asia: wars, colonialism, imperialism, Cold War geopolitics, nationalism and socialism. The course presents an overview of large historical processes, but introduces different perspectives by looking at how individuals narrated their experiences in memoirs, diaries, short stories, novels, and films.


Course Objective: 

At the end of this course, I hope (and expect) you will have gained a general understanding of the modern history of East Asia. And the stress here is on “general.” While we will cover a myriad of names and dates in the class, the emphasis is on the common trends that connect China, Japan and Korea to each other and to the rest of the modern world. The first goal of this course is to understand the historical origins of problems that continue to impact East Asia today; another goal is to introduce a wider comparative framework for the analysis of national histories. 


Required Course Materials: 

Available for purchase at the bookstore:

  • Patricia Ebrey and Ann Walthall, Modern East Asia from 1600: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Third Edition. Wadsworth, 2012.

This manual provides a support and a framework for your preparation but it is a complement, not a substitute for class attendance. We will discuss in class plenty of material not covered in the text.

  • Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy. Ordinary Lives in North Korea. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2010.

Other readings will made available on the class website.


Course Requirements: 

First, please fill in the user profile on D2L (the “About me” section). This counts for one point and gives me a chance to know a bit more about you.

The course is organized (thematically and chronologically) according largely to a weekly schedule and around weekly assignments. You should come to class having done the readings and prepared to contribute at least one observation about the topic at hand. The course is about more than memorizing names and dates, you will also be asked to develop your own approach to the material.

You will also contribute one short web posting each week.  These postings should respond directly to the readings and discussion questions provided in the syllabus or online.  Each posting is due by 9 AM every Monday (unless otherwise noted in the syllabus) and should be between 300- and 500-word long. Post your assignment on the D2L website for the class. Keep them short and to the point, longer is not necessarily better.  Clarity and brevity are ideal. As you will see, the weekly questions make direct reference to the assigned readings, and your answer should do the same. Basically, you have to prove that you have done the readings and that you have spent at least a few minutes thinking what they mean (historically). This is an easy way to lock in an “A” for a large portion of your final grade.  Just turn them in on time and be certain that they address the readings and the issues at hand directly and clearly.

Each posting will be graded as  “plus,” “check” or “minus.” “Plus” means you get the 4 points slated for that posting; “minus” means zero points; “check” means two points —you did the posting but with minimal effort. Remember, if your posting is not based on the weekly readings, it will receive zero points. Postings shorter than 300 words will receive no points.

These postings are a major portion of your grade and must be turned in the day they are due. You should post the assignment even if you are absent. If that is not possible, you can email it, fax it, or you may have a roommate or a friend bring a hard copy to the Department of History by noon on the day the assignment is due. After that time, late assignments will no longer be accepted.

NB: The class website http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~flanza/hist_270/ is the ultimate authority on what is due and when. Please check it as often as possible, because weekly questions might change from what is stated in this syllabus.

You will be asked to write four short papers, 3- or 4-page long. The topic and structure of each paper will be explained in class and it is briefly summarized in the syllabus. Papers are not always due on Monday so check the syllabus/website/D2L.  No web posting the week in which a paper is due. Late papers will be accepted but an entire letter grade will be deducted each day the paper is late. 

Finally, there is a take-home final for this class, but no midterm.


Course Grading: 

  • Student questionnaire and map quiz: 5% of grade
  • Web postings: 40% of grade
  • Short papers and final exam: 55% of grade

There is no extra-credit at the end of the semester. Don’t ask.


Course Policies: 

Attentive participation is indispensable. Absences and recurrent lateness will reflect itself on your grade.

Attendance is not optional but you may miss two classes without incurring any penalty.  Each additional absence will result in a detraction of 3% of your final grade, unless it is the result of documented serious medical or family problems. 

All holidays or special events observed by organized religions will be honored. Except in the case of genuine emergencies, absences must be confirmed with the professor via e-mail prior to class time. Excuses for documented absences must be presented to the professor within one week of the day in which the student was absent. After that time, no excuse will be accepted.

Note: Advising the professor of an absence does not make it excused. Only providing documentation may result in the professor’s decision to excuse it. 

Do not leave class early or arrive late.  If you have a scheduling conflict, please find another course that better suits your schedule.  This course is offered nearly every year.  Walking into class late or leaving early will count as an absence and will be factored into your grade.

Please turn all cell phones off.  Don’t set them to vibrate, don’t leave them on for text messaging; just turn them off. It disrupts the class, is rude to me and to your colleagues. E-mailing or web surfing via your laptop is also not appropriate. If it happens once, I will ask you to stop. If it happens a second time, I will report you to the Dean of Students, as for UA policies.  

Academic integrity.  All students are expected to abide by the university's code of academic integrity (http://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/academicintegrity). This course follows the policy on plagiarism of the Department of History (http://datamonster.sbs.arizona.edu/history/undergraduates/plagiarism.php) and any student who violates this policy will automatically receive a failing grade in the course. All students in this course should be familiar with this policy and no exception will be granted. If, even after having checked the websites, you still have doubts about what constitutes plagiarism, do not hesitate to ask.  

Students with Disabilities: 
If you anticipate the need for reasonable accommodations to meet the requirements of this course, you must register with the Disability Resource Center and request that the DRC send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please plan to meet with me by appointment or during office hours to discuss accommodations and how my course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate.


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Contact Us

Department of History
Cesar E. Chavez
Main Office, Room 415 
1110 James E. Rogers Way
Tucson, AZ 85721
Tel: (520) 621-1586
Fax: (520) 621-2422