From the emergence of a court-centered state 1500 years ago to a warrior-dominated society centuries later, Japan's premodern past fascinates people around the world. The people, institutions, and ideas behind these traditions—and the close connection of developments in Japan to those in Asia—are the focus of the first half of the course. The second half of the course turns to Japan's modern era and one of the more striking transformations in world history. We examine the tumultuous changes that occurred in a constant global dialogue from the mid-1880s through the present and explore how people in Japan have dealt with the dilemmas of modernity that challenge us all. The recorded lectures are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Societies of the World 13.

Meet The Author

Andrew Gordon

Andrew Gordon

Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History

Andrew Gordon is the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University. His teaching and research focus primarily on modern Japan. He has also taught Japan’s premodern history and courses on comparative history of labor. His most recent publication is Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2011), on the emergence of the modern consumer in Japan, using the sewing machine as window on that story. An earlier book, Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan (University of California Press, 1991) won the John King Fairbank Prize in 1992 for the best book on modern East Asian history, and was a finalist for the 1992 Arisawa Hiromi Prize for the best book on Japan. His textbook, A Modern History of Japan, was published in fall 2002 by Oxford University Press, and in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean translations. The third edition was published in 2013. Gordon has served as chair of the Harvard History Department (2004-07) and director of the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies (1998-2004 and 2010-2011). Before joining the Harvard faculty he was a member of the history department at Duke. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1981 in History and East Asian Languages. In 2014 he was elected as member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

David  Howell

David Howell

Professor of Japanese History, Harvard University

David Howell is professor of Japanese history at Harvard University. A native of Hilo, Hawaii, he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and studied at Hokkaido University in Sapporo before getting his PhD in history from Princeton University. He taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1989 to 1992, and at Princeton from 1993 to 2010, when he came to Harvard. He has written two books—Capitalism from Within: Economy, Society, and State in a Japanese Fishery and Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan—as well as numerous articles, including "The Social Life of Firearms in Tokugawa Japan"; "The Girl with the Horse-Dung Hairdo" and "Making 'Useful Citizens' of Ainu Subjects in Early-Twentieth-Century Japan." His current research is on the fear of social disorder in the decades preceding the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

PhD Princeton University

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