Samurai and Soldiers: Violence in Japanese History

History 103F.002

Fall 2018
Instructor (text): 
Christoffer Bovjerg
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 10-12
Class Number: 

This course will survey the changing ideals and diverse realities of soldiers and violence in Japanese history. From the creation of the first national army in 645, to the rise, heyday, and fall of the samurai, the wars and empire of modern Japan, and the constitutional pacifism of the present, Japan has been home to one of the most peaceful societies on earth. Yet it experienced some of the most violent periods in world history. This course tracks the relationship between violence (and its absence) and the state, as well as the role of soldiers and armies in Japanese society. Was violence necessary to maintain the peace, or to affect political or social change? What were the consequences of warfare? Who were these soldiers and why did they fight? We will explore these questions across historical eras as well as shifts in combat, technology, and ideology. Readings will include a variety of contemporary accounts written about and by warriors, complemented by modern academic research.