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Yamato State Myth-Making

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Dan Thalkar
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Yamato State Myth-Making

EQ: How do new governments solidify their power and shape historical narratives?


“There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” - Walter Benjamin


  1. Rationale - The study of 10th grade World History is in many ways the study of governmental power & change - revolutions, the rise of nation states, and the growth (and challenges) of democracy are all themes that carry through the course of the year. As such, using the creation of the Yamato state early in the year will help provide a case study for the creation of states and their accompanying myths. The treatment and resistance of ethnic minorities that is a part of this history also provides a strong counter-narrative to the traditional founding narratives societies often tell about themselves.

  2. Skills & Standards - CA HSS Content Standards: 10.1.2. 10.2.1 CA HSS Analysis Skills (9-12): Historical Research, Evidence, and Point of View 4; Historical Interpretation 1

  3. 4 Day Lesson Plan:



SWBAT analyze historical trends and patterns in order to answer the question, “How do new governments solidify their power and shape historical narratives?”


Day One:

  1. Predictions & Brainstorming about how power is created/used

  2. Historical context - Yamato state

  3. Counter narratives

  4. Steps to controlling narrative

    1. Chaos > Order

    2. Center & periphery

    3. Cradle of civilization vs. barbarism

    4. Imperial genealogy

      1. Founding myths

  5. Extension - similar pattern in other early societies?


Day One:

  1. Discussion & Intro EQ

    1. What is power?

    2. How is power maintained?

    3. Who writes the histories of nations?

    4. How do new governments solidify their power and shape historical narratives?

  2. Yamato state & Early Japan overview

    1. Totman reading

    2. Textbook passage

    3. “Emishi, Ezo, and Ainu: Disentangling the Voices of the Japan’s Far North” reading

    4. Where do these narratives overlap? Where do they diverge?

Day Two:

  1. Dominant/Counter Narrative

    1. Review dominant/counter narrative terminology

    2. Text Analysis: Dominant Narrative

      1. What’s the official/dominant narrative about the creation of Yamato state? Identify evidence & key details

    3. Critical Analysis: Counter Narratives

      1. What perspectives do we not hear?

      2. Who’s marginalized in the narrative? Why?

      3. Counter Narrative exploring: Emishi perspectives

        1. Connect w/ indigenous perspectives in the U.S.A. and around the world

Day Three:

  1. Creating Narratives

    1. Review process of creation of Yamato

    2. Distribute organizer w/ 4 steps

    3. Complete organizer w/ Yamato case study

    4. Analyze: What is the function of each step? How do we see people resisting this process (contemporary & historical)?

Day Four-Five

  1. Comparative Analysis

    1. Overview: Research a different case study in order to complete a comparative analysis & develop a theory of power solidification

    2. Options: Creations of other modern nation-states (USA, Germany, Israel, Ghana, Colombia, for example)

    3. Complete chart for identified nation state

    4. Class Gallery Walk to compare/contrast and identify patterns across nation development & mythmaking

Summative Assessment

Day 6+:


Students will write an essay responding to the prompt, “How do new governments solidify their power and shape historical narratives?”

This essay will use evidence from the creation of the Yamato state and the research on other nation-state formations conducted by the class. The author will synthesize and critically analyze different perspectives in order to explain patterns and trends evident across each step of the process.

As an additional ELA extension, students can write or illustrate a counternarrative creation myth of the Yamato state.