Detail from a Soviet poster

"It is the mission of the twentieth century to clarify the irrational." - Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Wednesdays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: May to July
  • 2 hours weekly online taught time
  • Tutor: Sheila Lecoeur
  • Fees from £67 to £117
Booking link

This course whose full title is Highlights of Post-war European History offers an introduction to European history since 1945 with an emphasis on the major events which changed attitudes and behaviour in the late 20th century. The historical context of two world wars will underpin understanding of subsequent events. What new ideas and innovations whether creative, scientific or social shaped our lives in the last half century? Why did Europe feel it necessary to form an economic and political entity in the EU and how successful has it been? How has the technological revolution changed the way we behave and think?

Each class includes a colourful power-point presentation and clips from documentary films setting out the information needed for the weekly topic. The emphasis is on class and group discussion. Lively debates are much encouraged! Presentation notes are sent to students after each class. Ideas for further reading will be suggested each week.

Course structure

Each weekly class will be conducted online in 2 sessions (45 mins each) with a 10 minute break in between, using Microsoft Teams. Students will receive information about the topic before the class and will have the opportunity to express their views at the start of the session. Your tutor will then introduce the topic, show pictures and various points of information in a Powerpoint display. There will be several opportunities for discussion as well as short documentary clips which bring the subject to life. The aim is to encourage communication and participation as much as possible.

Equipment Required

To take part in this class you will need an internet connected computer or tablet, together with a Microsoft Teams Account. Microsoft Teams accounts are free, but you do need to register for one in advance using the same email address with which you enrol on this course. We recommend you also download the Microsoft Teams App.

If you want to take part in this class  you will need at a microphone and web-camera connected to your computer or tablet. Many computers, laptops and tablets already have these built in, but you might want to check on that first.



Course Information

Course Programme

Week 1: A Civilian War

The first session will cover the civilian experience and the human cost of World War Two. It will consider the international organisations such as UNRRA and relief supplied 1945-8 with the Marshall Plan. We will also look at the change in mood and desire for a more equitable society, leading to the Welfare State and social democracy in western European countries.

Week 2: An Iron Curtain

In this session we will study the historical context of the post-war era, the Cold War, the Cuban Crisis as well as the Hungarian revolt against Soviet control and the Suez crisis. We will discuss life in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, contrasting with Europe’s growing prosperity most evident in Berlin. Our discussion will include attitudes and underlying conflicts resulting from political divisions exacerbated by the war.

Week 3: Post War Prosperity

Following on from the establishment of a post-war prosperity we will discuss its impact on daily life. This will include the post-war ‘baby boom’ and its consequences. We will consider the creative revolution of the 1960s and 70s in art, film and education, as well as women and children’s rights and child welfare.

Week 4: Trouble and Strife

This week focuses on areas in crisis:  civil unrest and the Red Brigades in Italy, the Cyprus crisis and the military dictatorship of 1967-74 in Greece. We will examine the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland and life in Spain under and after Franco.

Week 5: The End of History?

This session will analyse the events leading to the break-up of the USSR including, economic and social pressures, notably the secrecy surrounding pollution and the need for Peristroika and Glasnost  instituted by Gorbachev. We will also consider lifein Eastern Europe before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Week 6: The Balkan Wars and the Growth of the European Union

This week we will discuss the causes and consequences of Civil war in Yugoslavia and Balkan instability. We will also examine the history and achievements as well as the expansion of the EU.

Week 7: Britain After the War

This week we will look at an overview of British post-war history, its leaders and economic and social questions. We will consider the impact of policies instituted under the Thatcher governments such as: monetarism, neo-conservatism and the impact on state welfare commitments, media and academic freedoms.

Week 8: A Global World

This session will include questions such as: how have new ways of communicating and the globalisation of information changed our lives? We will discuss Europe’s place on the international scene and its contribution to world stability.

Week 9: History and Memory

In this session we will consider the role of memory: how we remember, record memory and commemorate the past. We will examine theories such as interdisciplinary/postmodern understanding of how we behave and see ourselves.

Week 10: Summing-up a Century

Our final session will include a debate, summing up the main events we have studied and which we consider to be the most significant. We will also discuss the role of history and the dangers of forgetting the past.

Additional Reading

Tony Judt’s book: ‘Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945’ will provide a good source of reference for this course.

Each session will be accompanied by clips from documentary and feature films which illustrate the subject of discussion and bring the period to life.

Your Tutor

Photograph of Sheila LecoeurDr Sheila Lecoeur has specialised in Italian studies and is currently Coordinator of Italian in the Centre for Languages, Communication and Culture.

Sheila is also a social historian of Europe in the 20th century, with a particular interest in the history of fascism and the Second World War. Sheila has engaged in historical research and has produced a documentary film about Greece in World War II for television. Her book on the Italian occupation of Greece, ‘Mussolini’s Greek island’, has also been translated into Greek. She is currently working on a second documentary film on the present crisis in Greece.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £117 £67 £90
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Fee Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • NHS staff (other than Imperial NHS Trust staff)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read these before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a w/c 11 May - w/c 13 Jul 2020 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 March

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications are sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms payment, payment date, order number and course title
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment confirmation which is only sent later
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-onfirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Our adult education evening and daytime classes do not offer academic credits, but we do offer an attendance certificate to those learners who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be addressed to the tutor, Dr Sheila Lecoeur,

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.