HY4B4      Half Unit
Maritime Asia in Transition, 1405-1839

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Ronald Chung Yam Po, SAR.2.18


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The subject of this course is the history of maritime Asia, particularly East and Southeast Asia, from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. If there is something we could refer to as a transition, would it be one related to a shift from being a not-so-maritime Asia to a relatively more-maritime Asia, or vice versa? Or perhaps the question should be one regarding a transition from one kind of Asia to another; for instance, from being secluded to embracing openness on its way to progress, or from being fairly continental to more maritime. Are there any fundamental differences between the conception of a maritime Asia and of a maritime Europe? These questions sound teleological in that the people of the time would hardly have made these enquiries. In the present century, however, it is imperative that we ask these questions in order to better situate Asia, especially during the early modern era, within a broader global context. In this seminar we will focus on a variety of themes so as to identify whether there were transitions and/or transformations in the history of maritime Asia that helped formulate the geopolitical order, cultural landscape/seascape, and trading networks of the Asian Pacific region and beyond. Throughout the course we will regard the ocean itself as an important segment of the world, whose fate is entwined with that of the human race. Using both textual and non-textual historical materials, we will critically examine various topics ranging from stories of an admiral, policy makers, and pirates, to the histories of a port city, an island, and a vast swath of sea space.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Lent Term.

Formative coursework

One essay (2000 words) in the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

  • David Armitage, Alison Bashford, and Sujit Sivasundaram, Oceanic Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
  • Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 (Old Tappan, N.J.: Pearson Longman, 2006).
  • Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).
  • James B. Lewis (eds.), The East Asian War, 1592-1598: International Relations, Violence, and Memory (London: Routledge, 2015).
  • Xing Hang, Conflict and Commerce in Maritime East Asia: The Zheng Family and the Shaping of the Modern World, c. 1620-720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
  • Ronald C. Po, The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power of the Qing Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).
  • John E. Wills., China and Maritime Europe, 1500-1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • Antony Reid (ed.), Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era: Trade, Power and Belief (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1993).
  • Leonard Blussé, Visible Cities: Canton, Nagasaki, and Batavia and the Coming of the Americans (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2008).
  • Paul van Dyke, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700-1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007).
  • Robert Antony, Unruly People: Crime, Community, and State in Late Imperial South China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016).


Essay (70%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (15%) and presentation (15%) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills