History | Hiroshima: History, City, Event
J400 | 17388 | O'Bryan


Above class open to majors only
Above class open to undergraduates only
J400: P-HIST-J300

The name Hiroshima has come to stand for the catastrophic tragedy of
war in general and for the horrifying potential for nuclear
annihilation that has loomed in the backdrop of human affairs since
those days in August 1945 when an atomic weapon was first used over
that southern Japanese city. And yet, as important in world history
as Hiroshima as cataclysmic event was, Hiroshima as a place, as a
city, lives on even today, rebuilt, bustling, a thoroughly
contemporary, global city. Hiroshima, moreover, had a long history
prior to its war-time bombing, a history that stretched far back
into centuries when samurai represented the ruling class of Japan
and the shogun reigned, back to a time when the clash of modern
empires that eventually resulted in Hiroshima’s obliteration could
not possibly have been imagined. This class will explore the history
of modern experience through the lens of one city. We will attempt
to trace the warlord roots of the city of Hiroshima in the sixteenth
century, follow rapid changes on the urban terrain of Japan during
the modern period, and discover the links between the venerable city
and modern imperialism. We will, of course, also try to understand
how it was that Hiroshima, a city of many hundreds of thousands of
civilians, became the target of an atomic attack and trace the ways
in which that bombing has been understood since the end of the war.
Class materials will include histories of urban transformation, war,
and memory, including the new spate of urban disaster studies
emerging outside the field of Japan. We will also use literature and
film reflecting on wartime Hiroshima. Students will complete written
projects on some aspect of urban history or memory.