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History assignment - recommend me a subject!

Posted: September 3rd, 2008 8:15 pm
by Bissen
Hi all Jpod-members!

I'm about to write an assignment about something history oriented, and of courese I'd like something about Japan! It's just that I don't really know much, and therefore don't know exactly what to write about.
Then I figured that you guys might know something really interesting from Japanese history that I could write about! Any time in history - just NOT after 2. World War.

Hope you come with some great ideas!


Posted: September 3rd, 2008 11:03 pm
by Belton
some ideas

The rise of Japan as an Imperial power pre WW1. Militarily the first defeat of a major power by a non-European nation with Admiral Togo's defeat of the Russian fleet. Togo's flagship is preserved as a museum in Yokosuka.

The Meiji period of rapid industrialisation and adoption (and adaption) of western ideas. The end of the feudal system.

I don't know if it fits in your timeframe but the period just after the surrender and before the first American occupation troops landed is interesting. Whole warehouses disappeared down to their foundations. The occupation as a whole is interesting. "Embracing Defeat" is quite a good book. Might be a bit heavy if you're still in high school though.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1580s). He effectively laid the groundwork for the social systems of the Edo period. Restrictions on travel, the inability to move outside your class, disarming everyone but the samurai, tax surveys.

Posted: September 4th, 2008 4:15 am
by Bissen
Cool! Thanks a lot!

Ideas are still welcome! :D

Posted: September 4th, 2008 7:59 pm
by andamanislander
Bissen wrote:Ideas are still welcome! :D

How about the 1964 olympics?

Or you could do something about shipwrecked sailors at the end of the Edo Era, there's some really fascinating stuff on that. (Start here: ... d=10278660 )

Posted: September 4th, 2008 8:15 pm
by Bissen
Damn, the Olympics would be nice, but I can't have anything after WWII :(

The shipwrecks seem interesting though.. I'll have a look at it! Thanks!

Posted: September 6th, 2008 3:06 am
by Bissen
Hi again...

Does anyone know anything about Shinsengumi?
I don't know ANYTHING about Japanese history, so I don't know how big the subject would be.

You think I could find enough about the relations between the Iga and Koga ninja-clans?

I thought about the persecution of Christians, but I have a feeling that there isn't too much stuff on it - then I would have to include something else, which I wouldn't know what should be...

My assignment should be about 8 pages (of pure text), so it can't be like a MAJOR subject...

I'm hard to satisfy :b

Posted: September 6th, 2008 4:55 am
by Belton
Google is your friend.

Shinsengumi while interesting, seem a difficult topic to cover.
Perhaps the broader theme of why Japan was closed to outsiders, why and how the Americans forced open Japan, the reaction in Japan and how they dealt / coped / profited from it.

I think it'd be hard to get anything other than speculation and anecdotal accounts on the ninja clans. While colourful, they'd be a hard sell for their historical significance.

I would have thought there'd be a fair amount about Christian persecution and martyrdom in Japan. The individual accounts are quite gory, the broader sweep of history more relevant. Why did Japan close itself to the outside and expel the missionaries? What was the consequence of this? Why was Japan never colonised or invaded like a lot of Asia?
the "hidden christians" are an interesting part of what happened.

There is a famous novel called Silence 沈黙 which was made into a film about this topic. Martin Scorcese is currently remaking it. Not that I'd recommend a novel as a historical source.

Do you need to cite your sources? Does the person marking the paper know anything about Japanese history?

Are you interested in the broad sweep of history of cause and effects and analysis (for instance Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbour rather than just recounting the events. ) or are you interested in social history, how people lived or the smaller events?

Posted: September 6th, 2008 5:03 am
by Bissen
I need to cite my sources, yes. I must be able to mention where I got the information.

I don't know exactly how much my history teacher knows about Japanese history, but he knows so many other things...

I'm more interested in the broad sweep, than in just how people lived etc. I'm pretty sure I have to cover some kind of "problem".

To be honest, we haven't gotten much information on this assignment... (No idea why! I just don't feel very informed...)
The more specific I can get, the better, so I don't think they would be pleased with just a description of how the feudal system was organized or something.

I think I'll go for the persecution of christians. I remember seeing a picture of a Buddha, hiding a cross behind his back - was used by the Japanese christians to hide their true religion. I was quite impressed by that...

Posted: September 11th, 2008 6:50 pm
by Taurus
I think many of the suggestions here fit your criteria of looking for a 'problem'. My own preference would be to look at Japan's isolationist strategy. The way you turn this into a 'problem', rather than just a description, is by framing the title of your assignment into a question. For example:

How successful was the Tokugawa shogunate's sakoku policy?
How far did society stagnate under the Tokugawa shogunate?

They both allow you to frame an argument/investigation rather than a description (in this case, looking at the efforts by the Japanese government to preserve existing social hierarchies, and whether Japanese culture and society thrived in defiance of those efforts).

Oh, and if you want a guide to writing history essays, here's one I composed earlier.

Posted: September 12th, 2008 2:28 am
by Bissen
Hi Taurus - thanks! I had to decide the other day, so I ended up writing this:

"I would like to investigate the persecution of Christians and the martyrs in Japan during the Edo Period, how it was possible for Christianity to remain for 250 years despite the prohibition of Christianity.
I'd also like to know what Japan's isolation from the outer world came to mean to the country, both financially, to the relation to other countries and also what effect it may have had today."

Slightly more formal and better, as I'm not English and therefor doesn't have the widest vocabulary, lol :P

But we'll see how it turns out! Thanks for all your help!