Asian History

Undergraduate History Major:
Asian History Track

Students can fulfill the requirements for the History major while pursuing their specific interest in one regional or thematic area. One of those areas is Asian.

Asia is home to a majority of the world population, some of the largest economies in the world, and some of the most ancient and most sophisticated civilizations in human history. Boston University offers an array of courses in all aspects of Asian cultures, politics, and economics across many departments. Students with knowledge of Asia are better positioned to understand the contemporary world and will stand out among their peers in their career development after graduation.

The goal of the track in Asian history is to introduce students to the craft of historical study—the ways historians make sense of the past, and the skills of historical analysis, writing, and research—as well as to promote a critical understanding of the historical experience of Asian societies. By taking Asian history seminars, students have the opportunity to conduct in-depth research projects in some aspect of Asian history. Each student’s History advisor and Asian History-relevant faculty are available to discuss the best combination of courses. Students are also encouraged to explore resources in Asian studies at BU through the webpage of the BU Center for the Study of Asia.

Students choosing to focus on Asian history must complete the requirements for the History concentration as outlined below. Note that selecting a special track for the History major is optional, and students may fulfill as much of it as they wish. In the lists below, move the cursor over a course number to view that course’s description. Note that course numbers are effective as of fall 2011; previous numbers are provided in parentheses.

  • HI 200: The Historian’s Craft (taken in the sophomore year or no later than one semester after declaring the major)
  • Four courses to fulfill the distribution requirement:
    • One course in American history
    • One course in European history
    • One course in World history
    • One course in premodern history
  • Seminars (two required). It is recommended that students with a focus on Asian history select seminars from the list below:
    • CAS HI 481: Looking East, Looking West: Mutual (Mis)Representations of Japan and the West Examines how understandings of the differences between “East” and “West” developed from ancient precedents through modern times as trade, missionary activity, and imperialism intensified contact and conflict in Japan’s relations with western countries over the past 500 years.
    • CAS HI 482: Merchants, Pirates, Missionaries, and the State in Maritime Asia, 600-2000 Oceans connected the peoples of coastal Asia, Africa, and Oceania for centuries, before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s. This course examines the commercial, religious, cultural, political and military dynamics of maritime Asia up to the present, showing the region’s historical and current importance.
    • CAS HI 487: Continuity and Change in Late Imperial and Modern China Examines late imperial China, including political institutions, ethnic classifications, family and gender relations, cultural trends, and military traditions and their persistence into the Republican and Communist eras. Explores revolution and change and Chinese adaptation of ideas and institutions from abroad.
    • CAS HI 488: Interwar Japan and the Pacific War An examination of the cultural, social, and political impact of World War I on Japanese society, the nature of Taisho liberalism, 1930s militaristic nationalism, with emphasis on the role of the United States leading into and beyond World War II.
  • Other courses (making a total of 12 for the major) may be selected from the following:
    • CAS HI 363 (389): Introduction to Early Chinese History The development of Chinese civilization through the traditional, medieval, and early modern periods; emphasis on intellectual history and political, social, and economic institutions.
    • CAS HI 364 (390): Introduction to Modern Chinese History History of China from the Opium War through the Chinese revolution to the post-Mao era. Analysis of the traditional continuities and political, economic, social, and intellectual changes stimulated by modernization and revolution.
    • CAS HI 369 (391): Introduction to Modern Japanese HistoryDevelopments from late Tokugawa Japan and the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the present. Focus is on Japan’s economic, political, and social adjustment to modern times, the evolution of twentieth-century Japanese imperialism, and Japan’s growth after World War II.
    • CAS HI 370 (381): The Samurai in Myth and History Explores how samurai, Japan’s (in)famous warrior class, defined themselves, and how others have portrayed them in literature, art, plays, film, and animation from ancient times to the present. Investigates why samurai ideals have become the most widely recognized Japanese “tradition.”
    • CAS HI 378 (276): Armenia from Antiquity to the Middle Ages Introduction to Armenian history from antiquity to the medieval period. Themes covered include geopolitical competition for regional hegemony, the conversion to Christianity, adoption of the Armenian alphabet, quality of political leadership under the five kingdoms, and national struggle for survival.
    • CAS HI 379 (277): Modern Armenian History and Literature Introduction to modern Armenian history and literature from the nineteenth-century “cultural renaissance” to the upheavals of the twentieth century—genocide, independence, and Sovietization—and the literatures of Soviet Armenia and the diaspora.
    • CAS HI 381 (397): History of Modern Iran, 1900-Present Geographical/historical background; social structure, ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversities; Anglo-Russian interventions; consequences of tobacco concession; constitutional revolution and reform; Qajar legacy; centralization, secularization, modernization under Pahlavis; oil and Mossadeg; autocracy and revolution; liberals, communists, fundamentalists, and Islamic revolution.
    • CAS HI 382 (398): Turko-Persia in the Twentieth Century This course covers the twentieth-century history of the non-Arab Muslim Middle East, i.e., Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. The constitutional revolutions in Turkey and Iran, Kemalism, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and communism in the Soviet Union and Afghanistan will be analyzed.
    • CAS HI 383 (399): Modern History and Geopolitics of the Caucasus Surveys history of the Caucasus with a focus on Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, from the early nineteenth century to the post-Soviet period. Explores advantages and problems of modernization, nationalism, and major power geopolitics within the context of international political economy.