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
  • 20 weeks: October to March
  • Fees from £210
  • Tutor: Dr Sheila Lecoeur
  • Location: Imperial College, South Kensington Campus
Register interest in this course

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, and ask how were the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution linked to the advent of Fascism and Nazism?

We will also look at why the causes of the First World War still a matter of debate, and our tutor will encourage us 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, and we will look at the relationship between the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, and consider its aftermath.

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.

Course Information

Course Programme

Week 1
  • Defining history and social history
  • Ideas and ideologies of the 19th century leading to the spread of socialism, communism and the International Movement
  • Proposed film clip (PFC): BBC documentary
Week 2
Week 3
  • The reaction to the war and the impact of the Russian Revolution
  • October 1917: Ten Days That  Shook The World (Sergei Eisenstein)
Week 4
  • The aftermath of World War I spread of communism, fascism and Germany’s reaction to the Versailles Treaty
  • PFC: The Versailles Treaty BBC
  • Cabiria by Giovanni Pastrone
Week 5
  • The economic recession of the 1930s and the rise of Hitler
  • PFC: Hitler’s charisma BBC
Week 6
  • The Spanish Civil War and German and Italian involvement
  • C4 Documentary
Week 7
  • Chamberlain and Appeasement. The outbreak of World War II
  • PFC: BBC documentary
Week 8
  • Churchill’s actions and policies. The blockade on food and raw materials to Europe
  • PFC: BBC documentary
Week 9
  • Occupied Europe. Coping with military occupation, starvation and survival
  • PFC: The Forgotten Greek Famine (S. and J. Lecoeur)
   **** CHRISTMAS BREAK ****
Week 10
  • Turning the tide of war, campaigns in Italy, Russia, France and Germany
Week 11
  • The Final Solution and the fate of the Jews across Europe
  • PFC: The Longest Journey
Week 12
  • The aftermath of war. Dealing with the consequences: collaboration and war criminals
  • PFC: Le chagrin et la pitié
Week 13
  • Resistance movements and the impact on post-war France, Italy and the Balkans
Week 14  
  • The long-term consequences of war. Populations displaced. Germany reconfigured
  • PFC: Germania Anno Zero (Rosselini)
  • The Labyrinth of Silence
Week 15
  • The post war, the welfare state and women's lives. Coping with austerity in Britain
  • PFC BBC documentary
Week 16
  • Reconstruction, The Marshall Plan, post war boom
  • PFC: La Dolce Vita (F. Fellini)
Week 17
  • The Cold War, espionage and the Iron Curtain
  • Das Leben der Anderen (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
  • BBC documentary on British spies
Week 18
  • The Suez Crisis and the impact of decolonization on Britain
Week 19
  • Khruschev and destalinization. The consequences of ‘glasnost’, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union
Week 20
  •  A changing world: the impact of the technological revolution on daily life. Summing up the 20th Century and its legacy

Additional Reading

Provisional reading list for the Autumn term

Core reference:

  • 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 SnyderTony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century  Ian KershawTo 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:

First World War:


  • 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:

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 Wa 1961
  • NB See core references above.
  • Paul DowswellThe 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 SorlinEuropean Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990 (Studies in Film, Television and the Media) 1991

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

HoursWeeksInternal rateAssociate rateStandard rate
 40  20  £230    (Early Bird rate: £210*) £305    (Early Bird rate: £280*)
£395    (Early Bird rate: £360*) 
* Early Bird fee rate is valid for enrolments made via the website between 1 August and 30 September only   |   All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

 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 Friends of Imperial College 
  • Friends of the South London Botanical Institute
  • 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
  • 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

Standard rate

  • Applicable to all who do not qualify for any of the above rates (Internal or Associate Rate).

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started, subject entirely to agreement by the tutor delivering the course. 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 the Evening Classes & Lunchtime Learning terms and conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 40  20 14 Oct - 12 Dec 2019 (9 weeks)* 6 Jan - 19 Mar 2020 (11 weeks) n/a
* Followed by the Christmas break

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 August

Enrolment & payment are through the Imperial College eStore. Please use above booking link noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on this page and your applicable 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 will be sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms your payment, date of payment and order number
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment receipt and therefore does not show your course however these details are sent to us via the system
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of September. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Confirms your course choice
  • Shows the programme your course is part of as well as the 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

Although no credits are offered for this very part-time course, an attendance certificate is presented to students who attend at least 80% (16) of the taught classroom sessions.

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.