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Photograph by Philip Brown

Fall 2017

1. HSTR 342 "Japan's Meiji Revolution"

This course explores what many historians consider to be among the most tumultuous and important episodes in Japanese history: the transformation from the feudal regime of the Tokugawa shoguns to the modern nation-state of the Meiji oligarchs. The Meiji oligarchs claimed to be “restoring” the emperor to power—using interchangeably vocabularies such as isshin (renovate) and ishin (renewal) to describe their political project, while others, such as Ernest Satow, a member of the British Foreign Service, noted that many people on the ground spoke of an ongoing “revolution.” What really happened to Japan in the decades around 1868? Did the Meiji government really restore the emperor to power, something he had not exercised (with one brief exception in the fourteenth century) since the decline of the Heian imperial order in the late twelfth century?  Or did the Meiji oligarchs invent a new constitutional monarchy, one later characterized by what historians call the emperor system ideology?  What about the social, cultural, and ecological legacies of decisions made during the Meiji period?


2. HIST 540 "History Methods"

This seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to history as an academic discipline. It is an introduction to not simply the “past,” but an introduction to a past that is structured to legitimate, elucidate, or bolster arguments born from contemporary political, social, and cultural debates. Importantly, “history” might be seen as the disciplining of the past, or a manner of organizing events into narratives that conform to a chosen theoretical and argumentative logic.  

In this respect, history might also be seen as disciplined memory, and who imposes that discipline, and with what theoretical structures they do so, is a critical question for historians to consider. The state disciplines memory by creating national archives, for example, as do many private corporations. In order to accomplish our goals, we will investigate the history of modern historical studies, a field known as “historiography,” as well as the recent emergence of several important fields, such as social history, the “linguistic turn” and cultural history, women’s history and gender studies, environmental history, deep history, and western revisionist history. Some of these are politically charged histories, such as the contact, trade, war, and genocide of Native Americans in the Southwest.

Our purpose is not to define the discipline through an investigation of this rich historiography, but rather to investigate the relationship of history to politics and to identify wherein lies history’s fundamental authority to create “knowledge.” We will also spend a great deal of time thinking about what constitutes a good history topic because eventually you will be required to find one.