History Department
History Department

Mark Ravina

ProfessorPh.D. Stanford University, 1991, A.B. Columbia University, 1983

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Chair in Japanese Studies
Mark Ravina



My specialty is Japanese history, especially eighteenth and nineteenth-century politics, but my broader methodological interest is in the transnational and international dimension of state-building. My third book, To Stand with the Nations of the World: Japan’s Meiji Restoration as World History was published in 2017 by Oxford University Press and won the best book prize of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies. My early work on that topic, based on a paper I delivered a Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study was published as "State-Making in Global Context: Japan in a World of Nation-States." In The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State, edited by Joshua Fogel, 87-104. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

My current research focuses on political language in nineteenth-century Japan, with a focus on text mining. In summer 2017 I ran, together with Hoyt Long and Molly DesJardin, a text mining workshop focused on the unique challenges of Japanese texts.
In public scholarship, I recently completed a 24-part course for The Great Courses, co-branded with the Smithsonian Institution, entitled Understanding JapanI am currently working on a second course on modern Japan.

In 2004 I published a biography of Saigō Takamori entitled The Last Samurai (John Wiley & Sons). Saigō was the inspiration for the character Katsumoto in the Tom Cruise film, also entitled The Last Samurai. I had begun working on the book without any knowledge of the movie, but the Warner Brothers film sparked a surge in general interest on Saigō. I appeared as a "guest expert" on CNN and on two History Channel programs: "History vs. Hollywood" and "The Samurai."The Last Samurai been translated into Chinese, Russian, and Polish. My first book was Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan (Stanford, 1999), also published in Japanese translation as Meikun no satetsu 名君の蹉跌 (NTT shuppan 2004).


HIS 385P • Digtl Mthds For Historians

38380 • Fall 2020
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM PAR 310

This class will cover five different aspects of what is commonly called "digital humanities": data visualization (dataviz), descriptive statistics, text mining, web scraping, and mapping (GIS). Dataviz is the craft of depicting quantitative and qualitative data on the page or screen. In descriptive statistics, we will survey the basics of correlation and regression (or OLS). Text mining is the practice of finding and describing patterns and trends in corpora, collections of texts. Web scraping is a technique use to extract large amounts of data from websites. Finally, we will survey the creation of digital maps and basic spatial statistics.

We will examine both theoretical questions, such as how digital methods can change humanistic inquiry, and technical questions of data management processing. The course will focus on the computer language R and the RStudio interface.

You do not need any special background in mathematics or computer science, just curiosity and a lack of “math anxiety.” If you have a strong math, stats, or coding background, you will learn to apply those skills to real world data. If not, this is a great introduction to data science.

HIS 320W • Thinking Like A Historian

38610 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 1.134

Historians use a range of analytical skills and our discipline, like the rest of the world, is entering the age of big data. In this class we will explore changes in American society using a massive data source, the hundreds of millions of names in the Social Security database. We will treat changes in baby names as evidence of broader political, social, and cultural change. When and why did the name Adolph drop in popularity? That should be obvious, but which name dropped in popularity the fastest: Adolph, Benito, or Hillary? Which name switched genders the fastest: Ashleigh, Kerry, or Jackie? Have personal names in the US become more or less diverse? Do the answers to these questions vary by state or region? Is Texas more “name diverse” than Wisconsin? Through these questions, we will explore the intersection of history with the interdisciplinary field of data science.

So that we can analyze name trends, this course will introduce the computer language R and review some basic algebra. Math and coding-related questions will include how to measure name diversity and how to calculate it by state and year. We will also explore more conventional historical sources and methods: newspapers, magazines, fiction and non-fiction books, and archival materials. Which politicians, celebrities, or fictional characters might have changed the popularity of a name? Was the name Marion, for example, already trending female when Marion Robert Morrison chose the screen name John Wayne? Did Cassius Clay spark a trend toward Islamic and Afro-centric names when he became Muhammed Ali? How do biographies, autobiographies, and other sources explain trends in names? How do those explanation match our quantitative evidence?

You do not need any special background in mathematics or computer science, just curiosity and a lack of “math anxiety.” If you have a strong math, stats, or coding background, you will learn to apply those skills to real world data. If not, this is a great introduction to data science. For all students, by combining humanistic critical thinking with computational analysis, this course will give you skills applicable to a range of careers.

HIS 341K • Origins Of Modern Japan

38685 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 0.128
GCWr (also listed as ANS 341K)

Same as Asian Studies 341K. This course focuses on Japan over roughly 150 years, from the 1850s to the early 21st century.  Topics include a brief survey of traditional Japanese society and politics; the fall of the shogunate and the Meiji Restoration of 1868; industrialization and economic development; the rise of consumer culture and mass politics in the 1910s and 1920s; 1930s militarism and World War II; the American occupation and postwar recovery; the rise of Japan Inc. and the long postwar economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s, the “bubble economy” of the 1980s and Japan’s “lost decade(s)” since the 1990s. Although the emphasis will be on major political events and institutional developments, we will trace social and cultural currents through literature, including dramas, novels, and movies.
Required texts:
·      Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, ISBN-13: 978-0199930159
·      Tanizaki Junichirō, Naomi, ISBN-13: 978-0375724749
·      Cook and Cook ed, Japan at War: An Oral History, ISBN-13: 978-1565840393
·      Handouts, reserves, and on-line readings.
Course requirements and grading:
·      two in-class midterm exams (20% each)
·      two take-home mid-term exams (20% each)
·      active in-class discussion work (10%)
·      short final essay (film or novel response) (10%)

HIS 381 • Empires And Imperialism

38465 • Fall 2019
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM GAR 1.122
(also listed as ANS 391)

This course is an introduction to the history and historiography of empires: what they were, what they are, how they work, and how researchers have explored these questions. We will examine a range of explanations for empire: institutional, geopolitical, economic, and cultural. Readings will include explorations of ancient Roman, Ottoman, Ming, Qing, modern British, French, Japanese, and American empires. Our major questions will include

·      Can a single definition of empire account for polities as diverse as ancient Rome and Qing China? What are the advantages of such general definitions over regional and chronological specificity?

·      What drove empire formation? How should we weigh economic demands, geopolitical rivalries, and domestic pressures?

·      At the beginning of the last century, much of the world lived within a European empire, either in a colony or in the metropole. Was nineteenth-century European colonialism unique, or simply an intense instance of a broader historical process?

·      How does imperialism relate to nationalism and local political identities? Does imperialism efface or create national identities?

·      How do empires shape quotidian lived experience? How do empires transform gender identities and family practices?


Weekly assignments: During the semester, write six short responses (800-1000 words) to the week’s readings. Try not to summarize, or focus on a single work, but to explore a central issue that connects the readings. Think about how and why questions have been framed, and the questions that remain unanswered or not even imagined.
Mock ACLS grant proposal: Begin formulating your research question with mock grant proposal. The proposal should include a title, an 800-character abstract, a 2000-character proposal, and a bibliography.
Research paper (5000 words): Explore a question in your specialty and relate it to the course readings. Should your research topic be considered an instance of imperialism? Use both secondary and primary sources and include a bibliography.

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