Topic 11: Japan 1920 to 1990

This period of Japan's history starts with a period of 'liberal' democracy, examines the descent into nationalism and militarism in the 1930s with its catastrophic results, and then looks at the reconstruction and development of Japan in the post war years.

There is significant overlap between this topic and Paper 1, Move to Global War.

Stamp celebrating the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, 1950

Specifically this topic covers:

  • The international impact of the First World War on Japan
  • The 1920s: Taisho Japan and 'liberal democracy'
  • The 1930s: the move towards militarisation and nationalism
  • International events from 1931 to 1945: China and war with the USA
  • The US occupation of Japan after the war
  • Japan's post-war economic miracle

1. The impact of the First World War on Japan

The First World War saw Japan increasing its role on the world stage; it increased its territories and influence and, in the post-war years, entered into the Washington Treaties with the USA and Britain.

2. Taisho Democracy

The reign of the Taisho Emperor, although short, is associated with a period of optimism in Japan's development when it seemed that Japan was becoming part of the international world order and developing...

3. The growth of militarism and nationalism in Japan

Despite the moves towards democracy and internationalism in the 1920s, external pressures ensured that the underlying problems which still existed in Japanese government and society would lead to a growth...

4. Japan's foreign policy 1931 to 1945

The years 1931 to 1937 saw Japan turn away from participating in international treaties and organisations, and instead become increasingly isolated as, led by the Japanese military, it pursued an aggressive...

5. The US Occupation 1945 to 1952

The occupation of Japan by the US from 1945 to 1952 was led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth; unlike Germany, the Soviet...

6. Economic miracle and its impact on Japan

In the decades following the Occupation, Japan experienced an 'economic miracle'. By the end of the 1960s, Japan had become the third largest economy after the US and USSR. This had a profound impact...

7. Japan 1920 to 1990: Essay frames and writing exercises

On this page you will find essay frames and essay planning exercises for this topic.Task One: Essay planningIn pairs, copy out and complete the following grid and then write a plan for this essay:

8. Japan 1920 to 1990: Extra resources

On these pages you can find useful websites for this unit along with historians' texts that students might find enjoyable to develop their understanding further. These books are all very readable and...

9. Japan 1920 to 1990: Videos

In addition to the videos below, others can be found on the various ATL pages for this topic, linked to specific activities. Videos for Japan in the 1920s and 1930s can be found here: 4. Japanese expansion...

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