Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Borders and borderlands in modern Asia
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written Essay 1  (3,000 words)  50%
Semester Assessment Written Essay 2  (3,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written Essay 2  (3,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written Essay 1  (3,000 words)  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of current approaches to and ongoing debates on borders and borderlands in the context of modern Asia.

2. Engage in close reading of primary or secondary sources and place them in their intellectual context in overland and maritime Asia.

3. Marshal and understand the use of appropriate evidence in formulating historical arguments regarding the historical development of borders and borderlands.

4. Demonstrate through written work an ability to integrate methodological themes into their own research.​

Brief description

What is a border? Who defines borders? And what crosses borders? This module will examine the demarcation, regulation and confrontation of imperial and national borders in Asia between the late seventeenth and the mid-twentieth centuries. Starting from a hotly debated notion of ‘Zomia’ (Scott, 2009), or the high plateau that falls outside of the sphere of state power, we will explore diplomatic missions in the seventeenth century, frontier wars in the colonial era, and marginal communities and trans-border smugglings up to the mid-twentieth century. These cases allow us to cover a wide and diverse area in mainland and maritime Asia, from the landmasses in northeast Asia, the high mountains between India and China, to islands in the South China Sea. Working on a selected number of translated primary sources and a rich body of historiography, we will interrogate the porous nature of borders. We will also ask how borders and borderlands shaped historical movements of peoples and goods, and to what extent they are responsible for the on-going international and internal conflicts today.



Introduction: territories, frontiers, sovereignties

What is a border? Individual accounts from late Imperial China

Demarcating the border (1): Kingdoms in mainland Southeast Asia

Demarcating the border (2): Frontier wars of British India

Communities across the border (1): ‘Hill tribes’ of the Himalayas

Communities across the border (2): ‘Sea gypsies’ in the South China Sea

Goods across the border (1): Overland caravan trade

Goods across the border (2): Smuggling by sea

Regulating national borders in post-war Boneo/Kalimantan

Review: Conflict and integration

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will learn to adapt to studying a range of sources and countries through the central theme of the module. Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard and other internet tools.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Identify problems and factors which might influence potential solutions; develop creative thinking approaches to problem solving; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of potential solutions.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework.
Subject Specific Skills By investigating the origin of national borders, students are encouraged to think critically about on-going conflicts along political, ethnic and social boundaries in the world today.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. group presentations or discussions in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 7