Europe's 20th Century
An Age of Extremes?
The aim of this course is to offer an introduction to the main historical events of the last century in Europe, and how they interconnect. The focus is on the Second World War, its causes and consequences. We will examine aspects of the rise of socialism and communism and the impact of the Russian Revolution. How are the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution linked to the advent of Fascism and Nazism? Why are the causes of the First World War still a matter of debate? Students will be encouraged to investigate and discuss the links between these important historical events and their consequences. Aspects of the Second World War, especially the way it affected peoples’ lives during and after the conflict, will be analysed and discussed. The relation between the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union and its aftermath will be examined.
Taking the historian Eric Hobsbawm’s book ‘The Age of Extremes’ and Mark Mazowers’s ‘Dark Continent’ as a good point of reference, other historical and literary sources will also serve to bring these events alive. Our discussions will be illustrated by relevant films and part of each class will be devoted to viewing clips from the most striking film footage about the period. Students will be encouraged to read up on the debates so as to be able to participate in class and to work out for themselves how historical events are connected.
About the teacher
Dr Sheila Lecoeur has specialised in Italian studies and is a social historian of Europe in the twentieth century, with a particular interest in Fascism and the Second World War. She is currently Coordinator of Italian in the Centre for Languages, Communication and Culture, is 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.
Please note that this syllabus is subject to change, depending on time required and specific areas of interest arising from our discussions.
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Provisional Reading List for term one
Eric Hobsbawn, Age of Extremes: The short Twentieth Century (Abacus, 1994)
Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (Allen Lane, 1998)
Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (Allen Lane, 2008)
Konrad H. Jarausch, Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century (2015) Timothy Snyder, Tony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 (2015)
Reference books for defining history:
E.H. Carr, What is History? (Penguin, frequent reprints)
Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen
Definition of social history:
Background to the 20th century:
James Joll, Europe since 1870 (Pelican, many reprints) NB See Chapter 6: The Industrial Society and its Critics
Socialism and Communism:
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Edmund Wilson, To The Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (2004 )
John Reed ,Ten Days That Shook the World (2007)
Ruis, Marx for Beginners (Unwin/ Writers and Readers paperbacks, frequently reprinted)
First World War:
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone (2006)
Gerard J. DeGroot, Blighty: British Society in the Era of the Great War. (Longman, 1996.)
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2014)
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (Re Caporetto 1917)
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1996) Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That (Penguin Modern Classics 2000)Pat Barker, Regeneration (Trilogy about the war. Viking Press 1991)
Nationalism, proto fascism and Nazism:
Ian Kershaw, The 'Hitler Myth': Image and Reality in the Third Reich (2001)
The Wall Street crash and its consequences in Europe:
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
The League of Nations:
Susan Pederson, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford 2015)
Interwar Period. Culture, Society and Politics
The Second World War:
AJP Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War 1961
NB See core references above.
Paul Dowswell, The Usborne Introduction to The Second World War: (Internet-linked 29 Apr 2005)
Fiction: Irene Nemirovsky,Suite Francaise, (Vintage, 2007) See film.
The consequences of war:
Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
David Kynaston, A World to Build. Austerity Britiain 1945-48 (Bloomsbury, 2008)
Collaboration and the pursuit of war criminals:
Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France. Old Guard and New Order 1940-44. (1975)
Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944 (2003)
Visual sources Pierre Sorlin, European Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990 (Studies in Film, Television and the Media) 1991
Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be addressed to the tutor, Dr Sheila Lecoeur, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imperial College undergraduates and postgraduates may, if they wish, acquire 2 ECTS credits after successfully completing their Evening Class. To qualify, a student must attend the classes regularly and pass a test at the end of the second term. Students will be invited to apply in the second term to take the test.