Europe’s 20th Century: The Age of Extremes
"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
- 2 hours taught time per week
- 20 weeks: October to March
- Tutor: Dr Sheila Lecoeur
- Fees from £210 to £395
- Location: Imperial College, South Kensington Campus
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 First and Second World Wars, their causes and consequences; a subject which still fascinates us today, as its impact on our lives continues to be relevant. We will examine the increasing support for socialism and communism and the impact of the Russian Revolution and ask how the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution were linked to the advent of Fascism and Nazism.
We will also look at the build-up to the First World War, still a matter of debate, and 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.
Analysing history: making the connections between events and those who were involved. This session includes a brief look at changing methods of writing and telling history; with important thinkers and ideas to be discussed. How can we best understand or interpret history? Taking the measure of Europe in the early 20th century through maps, film clips and debate.
Social and political change and the build up to the first World War 1. Changes in consciousness. Awareness of rights. National self-determination. Modernism in the arts and architecture. Visual and film materials.
The Russian Revolution 1905 and 1917 and the role of the state in Europe. Discussion of power relations in Russia, the Tsars and autocratic rule. Dramatic film clips of the revolution.
World War I. Campaigns, absolute war and destruction, as well as aspirations. The signing of the Armistice and Germany’s reactions; turmoil and bitter disappointment for the German people.
The Versailles treaties and their impact. The League of Nations and the rise of Fascism in Italy. The founding of the Communist parties and the socialist International.
The Great Depression of the 1930s. Crisis in post-war Germany, Nazism and the rise of Adolf Hitler. Germany rearms in contravention of the Versailles treaty.
The Popular Fronts in Spain and France and the Spanish Civil War
Hitler’s early expansionism. Appeasement and the
build-up to World War II.
The occupation regime in France and the spread of war to North Africa and the Balkans
Europe’s changing world status: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour December 7 1941 and the United States' entry into World War II
Collaboration, Resistance and the Holocaust
The final stages of the war in Germany
The shift in world power and recovering from war .
The search for stability in post-war Europe and political change
Cold War, espionage and the Berlin crisis
Britain in the 1950s: Economic obstacles, the welfare state, rationing.
Festival of Britain and the Suez crisis. Towards a consumer society.
Behind the Iron Curtain: USSR and life in the Eastern block countries
The break-up of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin wall and reunification of Germany
The civil war and break-up of Yugoslavia. Violence in Europe and Nato intervention.
Summing up the 20th century: the electronic revolution in communications, neoliberalism, deregulation and its consequences for life today.
This programme is provisional and might be subject to change.
Provisional reading list for the Autumn term
- 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
Dr 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
|Hours||Weeks||Standard Rate||Internal Rate||Associate Rate|
|40||20||£395 (Early Bird Rate: £360*)||£230 (Early Bird Rate: £210*)
||£305 (Early Bird Rate: £280*)|
|* The Early Bird rate is available for enrolments made before the end of 30 September for courses starting in October | All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.|
Rate Categories and Discounts
- Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.
- 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).
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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 the before enrolling on any course.
|Hours||Weeks||Autumn term||Spring term||Summer term|
|40||20||14 Oct - 12 Dec 2019 (9 weeks)*||6 Jan - 19 Mar 2020 (11 weeks)||n/a|
|* Followed by the Christmas break|
Web enrolment starts 1 August
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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% (16) of the taught classroom sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.
Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be addressed to the tutor, Dr Sheila Lecoeur, email@example.com
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.