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Taiwan Studies seminar


The Treasure Island: History of Taiwan, 1624-1945

Admission requirements



Located strategically and blessed with abundant natural resources, Taiwan has played a pivotal role as a crucial junction for connections and interactions in East Asia and beyond. Throughout its long history over a thousand years, this treasure island (baodao) – originally populated by Austronesian peoples – attracted a succession of traders, pirates, colonial powers, and settlers driven by poverty, chaos, and desire in other Asian and more distant polities. This course will focus on Taiwan’s history from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, a critical period characterized by profound changes and remarkable growth. Drawing from diverse primary and secondary sources, we will delve into significant political, economic, social, and cultural transformations and continuities of this island in East Asia from both chronological and thematic approaches. At the end of the course, students should be able to familiarise themselves with the importance and significance of Taiwan and its history in transforming itself from a seemingly underdeveloped frontier into one of the key economic hubs in a global context.

Course objectives

  • This course will provide an overview of the history of Taiwan between 1600 and 1945, in which students will obtain a critical understanding of the historical processes in shaping Taiwan in a transregional context.

  • Students will cultivate abilities to critically evaluate historical and historiographical arguments in the fields of Taiwanese, Asian, and global history.

  • They will develop familiarity with a range of disciplines and approaches, including gender, societal, intellectual, food, and sport, central to the past, present, and future of Taiwan.

  • They will also develop critical thinking, the ability to gather and process information working with secondary sources, as well as analytical, writing, and presentation skills.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • In-class presentation 30%

  • One short essay of 3000 words 50%

  • Class participation 20%


The final grade is established by determining the weighted average of all elements.


There will be no resit for the course work, but individual submissions can compensate each other.

For the term paper, only a previous submission for the first attempt qualifies students for the resit, and only if that submission scored a failing grade. First attempts that received a passing mark (5.5 or higher) cannot be improved through further revision.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Andrade, Tonio, How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

  • Andrade, Tonio, Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory Over the West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

  • Barclay, Paul D., Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018).

  • Berry, Michael (ed.), The Musha Incident A Reader on the Indigenous Uprising in Colonial Taiwan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2022).

  • Binghui Liao, Dewei Wang (eds.), Taiwan Under Japanese Colonial Rule, 1895-1945: History, Culture, Memory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).

  • Dawley, Evan N., Becoming Taiwanese: Ethnogenesis in a Colonial City, 1880s-1950s (Leide: Brill, 2020).

  • Eskildsen, Robert, Transforming Empire in Japan and East Asia The Taiwan Expedition and the Birth of Japanese Imperialism (Singapore: Springer, 2019).

  • Hang, Xing, Conflict and Commerce in Maritime East Asia: The Zheng Family and the Shaping of the Modern World, C.1620-1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

  • Manthorpe, Jonathan, Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

  • Po, Ronald C., The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

  • Rubinstein, Murray A. (ed.), Taiwan: A New History (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2007).

  • Shepherd, John Robert, Statecraft and political economy on the Taiwan frontier, 1600-1800 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

  • Teng, Emma Jinhua, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writings and Pictures, 1683-1895 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

  • Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry, Maritime Taiwan Historical Encounters with the East and the West (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2014).

Further readings are listed in the syllabus.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof