Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2621: Political Culture in Japan since 1688

Department: History

HIST2621: Political Culture in Japan since 1688

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an understanding of the history of Japanese political culture since the seventeenth century.
  • To introduce students to major works of Japanese political thought, with attention to the historical contexts in which these works were created, understood, and put into practice.
  • To examine how historians use a variety of sources and media to illuminate changes in political culture.
  • To train students to think comparatively about Japanese history and situate it within regional and global frames
  • To encourage students to reflect upon the historically contingent nature of contemporary assumptions about politics in Japan and elsewhere.


  • This module explores the history of modern Japanese political culture, with a focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Lectures and seminars examine different political movements and schools of thought associated with Confucianism, pan-Asianism, liberalism, socialism, fascism and other “isms” that emerged across this period
  • Attention to the diversity of political practices and ideas in Japan is combined with an analysis of historically specific forms of “common-sense” – related to gender, class, language and ethnicity -- that transcended overt political oppositions.
  • Seminar readings contribute to this analysis by showing how political ideas and ideologies were embedded in a wide variety of social and media contexts, ranging from small private academies to mass-circulation newspapers and political parties.
  • This enables a fuller and more nuanced consideration of the relevance of the past to political debates in contemporary Japan, including debates concerning equality, cultural values, war memory, and immigration.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of the history of Japanese political culture from the early-modern period to the final decade of the twentieth century.
  • Understanding of debates about change, continuity and cultural particularity in Japan, including the political and historiographic stakes of these debates.
  • Familiarity with different approaches and sources relevant to the study of political culture.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources. The additional summative assignments will test knowledge and skills specific to the module, such as analysis of relevant primary sources, or critical engagement with the historiography as demonstrated through book reviews and article abstracts.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1000 word summative assignment and from work done and in preparation for seminars.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University