History and institutions of East Asia

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
In the last 150 years most of the Countries in East Asia rose from poverty and subjugation by foreign powers, to a prominent position in today's world economy and politics. This course traces the rise in the global context of China, Japan, and Vietnam, the most representative Countries of the region. The period taken into consideration starts from the wave of European and Japanese colonial enterprise in the XIX century, continues with the decolonization process in the XX century, to the present efforts to shape a China-centered new regional order. The course provides insights into the interactions between the East Asian Countries and Western powers, as well as on the interconnections among the Countries within the zone. Along with the discussion of shared patterns characterizing the whole region, a focus on the comparative perspective will reveal the heterogeneity of the area. To capture the multifaceted nature of change that characterized modern East Asia, both political, economic, and cultural aspects of the historical process will be the object of the course.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of this course students will be able to:
1) Discuss critically the diverse historical evolution of East Asia in the last 200 years.
a. Use properly conceptual tools and lexicon to describe the area in the selected period.
b. Compare specific historical phenomena (for example, the encounter with the Western imperialism, the centralization of the national state etc.) in the context of the selected Countries, to explore different historical paths in East Asia.
c. Determine the relevance of different historical facts.
d. Establish the correlation among past events, exploring historical continuity and change in the selected area.
2) Apply the historical understanding of the area developed during the course to address contemporary issues concerning the area (for example, discuss the present role of the selected Countries in East Asia from a 200-years perspective).
3) Analyze critically historical sources.
a. Identify different types of historical source (direct, indirect, primary, secondary..).
b. Select and extract meaningful information from historical sources.
c. Detect and interpret the author's intent and the aim of the source.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First trimester
Course syllabus
The course is composed of two units that explore the modern and contemporary history of representative Countries of East Asia. The first unit will focus on the rise of China in the regional and global context, from the Opium wars to the present. During the class students will be asked to actively participate in group exercises and discussions based on historical sources. The second unit will turn to the modern and contemporary history of Japan and Vietnam. Students are invited to attend the entire course (9 credits); it is possible to take the second unit only (6 credit).
Prerequisites for admission
Teaching methods
Frontal lessons; class discussions on assigned papers and historical sources.
Teaching Resources
Required texts:
One textbook and a series of articles, for attending and non-attending students.
Students are asked to choose one of the two textbooks below:
- Charles Holcombe, A History of East Asia, From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-first Century, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2nd ed., 2017. (chapters 6th to 14th).
- John H. Miller, Modern East Asia: An Introductory History, Armonk; London: Sharpe, 2008.

The list of articles will be communicated at the beginning of the course.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The examinations are intended to assess the subsequent abilities:
a) present the main issues addressed during the course in a clear and correct way.
b) Apply the acquired historical knowledge to contemporary issues regarding the area.
c) Analyze critically historical sources.

Two written tests will be scheduled, the first one after the first unit and the second one at the end of the course.

The test after the first unit is meant to assess a) to c) abilities related to the first unit. The test is composed of exercises (gap filling-exercises, multiple choice questions etc.), and open-ended questions. Non-attending students are required to prepare additional material regarding c) ability.

For attending students, the written test at the end of the course is meant to assess a) to b) abilities related to the second and third unit. Non-attending students will be asked to take a written exam concerning a) to b) abilities. The test is composed of open-ended questions.

The final evaluation will be based on: (1) active participation to discussions (10 percent of the final mark); (2) midterm test (30 percent of the final mark); (3) final test (60 percent of the final mark). For non-attending students, the final evaluation will be based on: (1) midterm test (35 percent of the final mark); (2) final test at the end of the course (65 percent of the final mark).

For students attending the second unit only, the evaluation criteria will be as follows: (1) active participation to discussions (10 percent of the final mark); (2) written test (90 percent of the final mark). The evaluation regarding non-attending students will be based entirely on the written test.
SPS/14 - ASIAN HISTORY AND INSTITUTIONS - University credits: 9
Lessons: 60 hours
Educational website(s)
Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.
Videocall on Microsoft Teams. An appointment request in advance via email will be appreciated.