The school was founded by samurai scholar Okuma Shigenobu in 1882, and was designated a full university in 1902. Much of the campus was destroyed in the firebombings of Tokyo during World War II, but the university was rebuilt and reopened by 1949.
Waseda's literature program is particularly famous, and counts Murakami Haruki and Tawara Machi among its graduates. Several prominent politicians, including Mori Yoshiro and Tanaka Makiko, are also Waseda alumni.
Waseda was recently involved in the development of the WL-16 "walking robot."