Spring 2016 - HIST 464 D100

Problems in Modern Asian History (4)

Propaganda Mod Japan

Class Number: 4147

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Concepts and methodology of modern Asian history. Selected themes may include revolution, inequality, mass violence, ideology, imperialism, leadership, and the Cold War. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 464 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


One of the founders of modern propaganda studies, H.D. Lasswell, defined propaganda as the “management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols.” Using the example of Japan and covering the period from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, this seminar explores how this “management of collective attitudes” shaped self-identity and attitudes toward others prior to, during, and after wars.

Recruited shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour to assist with U.S. Army propaganda, the Oscar-winning director Frank Capra studied a number of captured Japanese films and is said to have remarked, “We can’t beat this kind of thing. We can make films like these maybe once in a decade.” Capra’s now famous assessment could be applied to other areas of propaganda, which was not limited to products of the mass media, such as cinema, radio, and newspapers, but also to what individuals wore and ate.

Japanese propaganda was thus said to be extremely sophisticated and effective. At the same time, consideration should be given to the extent to which various interest groups involved in shaping public opinion became captives of their own propaganda and limited by the need to conform to state-sponsored and popularly-supported ideas.

Recommended: While it is not a prerequisite for this course, it is recommended that students take a course on Japanese history prior to this one. They are also encouraged to contact the instructor to further discuss their preparedness for the course and to better determine if the content meets with their individual interests.


  • Seminar presentation/participation (Presentation(s), 5% Participation 30%) 35%
  • Book review (3-5 double-spaced pages MAXIMUM) 15%
  • Essay proposal (2 double-spaced pages MAXIMUM) & annotated bibliography 5%
  • In-class analyses of wartime/Occupation period propaganda films (Weeks 11-14) 15%
  • Essay (10 double-spaced pages MAXIMUM) 30%



Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Registrar Notes:

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