Asian History

Asia has historically occupied a position at the centre of the global economy. For much of human history, Asia has been the richest and most advanced region in the world. At Monash, we look back across the broad sweep of Asian history to understand the role that Asia has played in world history and how it continues to shape the world today.  In addition to opportunities in Victoria, Monash students can study at the university’s campus in Malaysia or can spend a semester at one of our many international partners across Asia.


At first year, Asian history at Monash is taught in collaboration with the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics.  Students interested in Asia should consider taking the joint first year Asian Studies sequence, which consists of ATS1319 Understanding Asia: an introduction to Asian history and culture and ATS 1327 Understanding Asia: society, culture and politics in the 21st century.

SOPHIS Staff Research Areas

The History Program includes a number of staff working on East, Southeast and South Asia.

Adam Clulow Premodern and modern East Asia; Japanese History
Jane Drakard History of Southeast Asia
Ernest Koh Modern Southeast and East Asian history
Susie Protschky European empires in Asia
Ian Copland British imperial history; comparative colonialism, modern south Asian history

Units Offered

We offer a range of units in Asian history. For a full list of units, see the handbook but you might want to consider:

ATS 2606/3606 The Island World of South East Asia The island world of Southeast Asia encompasses the region now defined by the modern states of Malaysia and Indonesia. The unit will explore cultural, political and economic change in this region from the early kingdoms to the beginning of the nineteenth century. A major theme will be the development of two local cultural and political patterns, those of the Javanese and Malay worlds.
ATS2596/ATS3596 – The Vietnam War This unit traces the origins of the war in resistance to French colonialism after 1945 and examines deepening US involvement, analysing the motivations of the main participants. The unit will focus not just on the military phases of the war, but also on its cultural and ideological ramifications in Vietnam, the USA and Australia. Lectures will provide a general framework with tutorials focussing on more specific issues such as contrasting styles of warfare, cold war ideology, the role of the media, anti-war protest, POW and veterans issues and approaches to commemoration and remembrance. The wider ramifications of the war in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia, will also be studied.
ATS2909/ATS3909 – Villains and rogues: A history of ideas about gangsters

For most of the 20th century, the exploits of gangsters, ranging from Dillinger to the Yakuza to the Green Gang of Shanghai, have been constantly re-imagined in books, music, film, and television. Gangsters are usually portrayed as romantic figures, rogues resisting the intrusive state. That gangsters have been an integral part of modern history is not in doubt. But apart from being romantic figures, what do gangsters actually do, and why are they celebrated? Are their interactions with the state only defined by resistance? Drawing on sources including film and literature, this unit traces the modern story of gangsters and their unique relationships with their respective states and societies.

ATS2607/3607 Nationalism and Revolution in Southeast Asia

This unit aims to provide students with a thorough knowledge of the development of nationalism in three Southeast Asian colonies (drawn from Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, The Philippines and Malaysia) during the early twentieth century and a comparative understanding of the way in which these movements developed into revolutionary struggle and led to eventual independence from colonial rule. The unit aims to develop students’ awareness of the rich complexity of cultural and political change in this period of anti-colonial struggle and to encourage them to consider theoretical work on nationalism and cultural change in the context of these specific historical examples.

Asian languages at Monash

Students interested in Asia are strongly encouraged to consider taking an Asian language.  Currently the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics offers four Asian languages (Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean).

Units offered in other Schools and Centres

If you are interested in Asian history, you might want to consider taking units in others schools across Monash. Some units to consider are:

Resources at Monash

Monash is a leading centre for Asian history in Australia. The Asian Studies Research Collection consists of Asian language materials with a focus on Southeast Asia and East Asia. It contains over 100,000 volumes. It is supplemented by databases and other electronic resources, large microform and audio-visual holdings and an extensive range of English language resources relating to Asia, including substantial resources on South Asia.


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