Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30P1: East Asia in Historical Perspective: The Making of the Two Koreas

Department: History

HIST30P1: East Asia in Historical Perspective: The Making of the Two Koreas

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To understand the historical roots of the current political situation in the Korean peninsula
  • To situate Korea’s history in East Asian and world-historical perspective
  • To examine shifts in Korean historiography within Korea and internationally alongside the rise of new historical sub-fields


  • The most militarized stretch of land on Earth, the border between North and South Korea separates two vastly different societies: one, a secretive authoritarian state infamous for its nuclear arms and Orwellian society; the other, a prosperous democracy that has become a model of economic and cultural efflorescence. The module explores the historical roots of the current condition of the Korean peninsula through a longue durée and comparative lens. Beginning with the Mongol invasions of Korea in the thirteenth century, in Michaelmas term we will examine Korea’s place in East Asia and the world and the processes of centralization and identity formation that unfolded on the Korean peninsula. We will cover the vast array of social, economic, and environmental changes that Korea underwent during the early modern era, and we will analyze the domestic and geopolitical turmoil that preceded Japan’s colonization of Korea in 1910. In Epiphany term, we will examine the Japanese colonial era and its legacies; liberation and the road to the Korean War; and the different paths that North and South Korea took in the latter half of the twentieth century. During both terms, particular attention will be paid to historiography and comparative perspectives. In order to better comprehend the road to the “Two Koreas,” we will situate Korea’s history in broader East Asian and world-historical perspectives, including through themes such as bureaucracy, religion, environmental change, colonialism, modern nationalism, and international socialism. Altogether, the module offers students a deeper understanding of not only the Korean peninsula but also the opportunity to compare trajectories of historical change across East Asia and the world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of Korean and East Asian history and historiography
  • The ability to analyze trajectories of historical change through a longue durée perspective from the early modern era through the twentieth century and accordingly situate historical legacies
  • The ability to comparatively situate local, national, and regional contexts in world-historical perspective
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be introduced to primary source analysis, and should gain preliminary skills to evaluate both archival and oral historical sources.
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/

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:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • 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. enter text as appropriate for the module

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; 2 in Term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 4 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words not including footnotes or bibliography 100%
Component: Exam Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen Examination [paper to be made available not less than 72 hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Written assignment(s) of 1000-2000 words.

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