Module Identifier IP36120  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Dr Douglas E Ford  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Douglas E Ford  
Course delivery Lecture   14 Hours (14 x 1 hour)  
  Seminars / Tutorials   9 Hours (9 x 1 hour)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word essay40%
Supplementary Exam Students may, subject to Faculty approval, have the opportunity to resit this module, normally during the supplementary examination period. For further clarification please contact the Teaching Programme Administrator in the Department of International Politics. 

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students will be able to:

- identify the key historiographical debates concerning the economic, political and strategic factors which propelled Japan's expansion on the Asian continent during the 1930s, and the underlying causes for the outbreak of war between Japan and the Western Powers in December 1941
- discuss the reasons for Japan's rapid conquest of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific during the opening stages of the conflict
- analyze the military, political and diplomatic complications which the US and Britain faced in their effort to dislodge Japan's hold on its Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere
- distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of Japan's war effort
- understand the reasons why the Pacific War ended with Japan's unconditional surrender, and to grasp the key historiographical debates on the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945

Brief description

This module explores the military, diplomatic, economic and political dynamics which gave rise to the origins and course of the Second World War in the Asia-Pacific theatres.


The course aims to provide students with a firm understanding of the origins, conduct and dynamics of the Pacific War, and to provide them with the analytic framework necessary to understand the nature of one of the greatest conflicts in human history.


The course commences by examining the situation that arose in East Asia following the breakdown of the Washington Treaty system of 1921-22, the outbreak of the civil war in China, and the effects of the Great Depression on Japanese foreign policy. Course then analyses the political, economic and ideological factors which propelled Japan's occupation of Manchuria in 1931, which was to set Japan on a course of expansion on the Asian continent throughout the 1930s and eventually culminate with a confrontation with the US and Britain in 1941. The course then discusses the reasons for Japan?s rapid conquest of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific in early 1942, and then examines the military, political, economic and diplomatic factors which shaped the Allied and Japanese war efforts. Course concludes with a discussion of the reasons why the Pacific War ended with Japan?s unconditional surrender, the historiographical debates concerning the causes and consequences of the use of the atomic bombs in August 1945, and finally, the Cold War which developed in East Asia during the aftermath of the war, and the legacy of the conflict for Japan and its Far Eastern neighbours.

Reading Lists

A Iriye (1987) The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific London: Longman
RH Spector (1985) The Eagle Against the Sun: the American war with Japan New York: Vintage Books
J Dower (1986) War Without Mercy New York: Pantheon
E Drea In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army University of Nebraska Press
L V Sigal (1945) Fighting to the Finish: the politics of war termination in the United States and Japan Cornell University Press


This module is at CQFW Level 6