The analysis of “the Meiji Constitution”
1) Understand the readings and materials, including the primary source(s)—the Meiji Constitution (and
those from David Lu’s book if you want), A Modern History of Japan written by Andrew Gordon, and the
lecture notes (pdf files) on Blackboard. These reading materials and lecture notes are regarding the
Warring States and the Tokugawa periods. They include subjects about Japan’s politics, economy,
society, gender, etc.
• You may add other primary sources from the uploaded files to Blackboard (such as Ito
Hirobumi’s “Commentaries on Constitutional Provisions Relating to the Emperor’s Position, 1889) or find
David Lu’s book in the library to search for primary sources inside. David Lu includes many useful
documents in his book. If your primary sources are not from David Lu’s book, I need to have copies of
these outside primary sources along with your essay. Group and email them to me as a separate file.
The next step is to analyze the meanings of each main point, which would be the evidence for your
overall argument. See the details above.
• When reading, take notes to decide the subjects or themes you want to focus on. Then,
prepare an outline before writing the essay. This is the part to organize your thoughts.
2) Do you have any questions regarding these subjects? These questions are always the beginning for
you to write essays in order to find the answers. After being properly worded and organized, they are
the study questions, showing the finish line that you need to run to and find the answers. You should
put them down in the beginning of the outline and later in the introduction of your essay. You should
develop your own questions to suit your interest. But, in order to help you, I am giving you a few AS
EXAMPLES. Which countries or thoughts influenced the Meiji Constitution? Who dominated the
stipulation of the Meiji Constitution? Why and how?
3) Work on the body of your essay first.
• In general, one paragraph should focus on only one subject or topic. The topic sentence—the
first sentence in a paragraph—is your argument or the most important opinion in the very paragraph.
• Give evidence, such as concrete examples from in the primary sources or the textbook, in the
body of your essay to support your explanations (which are your minor arguments).
4) Work on the conclusion after finishing the body. Never repeat or copy the sentences from the body. A
conclusion is to summarize your main points which have been well discussed in the body but in different
words. Besides, never raise new issue or point in the conclusion.
5) It would be always better to work on your introduction after you have finished the body and
conclusion of the essay. That’s how you know for sure, after analysis in the body, which most important
points should go to your introduction.
• This sounds against your past experiences, but this is what most scholars and professional
writers are doing. Why? We changed our analysis and opinions from time to time in the writing process.
Therefore, if you start an essay with an introduction and place a thesis statement in the end of the
introduction, it is very common that the body of your essay gradually goes awry from the original
intension. At this moment, you should follow the overall explanation of the body and make it your main
argument, which is the thesis statement.
• Briefly introduce your overall topic. Why is it so important for us to know? What kinds of sources do
• Your thesis statement in the end of the introduction should be your brief opinion or interpretation.
Whichever option you select, we ask when we analyze primary sources:
What are the major points in the primary sources?
Who wrote/produced the primary source? What kind of background could have influenced him/her to
produce it consciously or unconsciously? His/her intellectual background? His/her experiences in
politics, in society, in family, and so on.
Why did he produce it? Each primary source has its purpose and unintentional influence.
Who would be his/her audience?
How did he/she produce this primary source? All the four factors above would decide the contents
and his tone, language, strategy, etc.
Below is for your information. But they are particularly important for your career at Winthrop and
particularly if you are in social sciences or humanities.
The “Meiji Constitution” and the pieces from David Lu’s book are the so-called primary sources.
Primary sources are (raw) materials (such as government documents, literary works, paintings, artifacts,
and buildings) produced by people directly involved in the historical events or topics when they
happened, either as participant or as witness. More types of primary sources include but are not limited
to surveys, statistics, government census in political science or sociology, photos or clothes by
anthropologists, or lab results in biology or chemistry. Each primary source has its viewpoint,
perspective and even bias, and no primary source can be comprehensive enough to help us understand
the whole event or topic. Why? The author has his/her limitations such as language or interest. In
addition, you don’t know Japanese and cannot deal with this part yet. However, keep in mind for the
future. A document in a language other than modern American English could have many translations. It
is similar to the many versions of the Bible and many interpretations of the
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