European History 1900-2016

Professor Jonathan Steinberg

See this course profiled on the PKP 2015 blog!

EuropeanThis course follows the history of Europe from the high point of Empire and world domination in 1900 to collapse and ruin in 1945 and on to recovery by the 1970s until 2016’s latest developments on terrorism and the state of the EU. The grand societies and rich nations which composed the European state system destroyed themselves in the first forty-five years. As many as eighty million Russians, Germans, Poles, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Italians and other Europeans died through war, disease and famine. Hundreds of thousands died in slave labour camps, and six million Jews were systematically murdered. On the 8th of May 1945, the day Nazi Germany surrendered, the once prosperous continent was a gigantic smoking ruin, covered by rubble, pock-marked by craters and full of miserable starving people. From the ‘zero point’ Europe recovered to find a new and much greater prosperity, to witness the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and its new identity in a continental federation called the European Union.  The crash of 2008 and the subsequent crisis of the common European currency have revealed a whole new set of tensions and conflicts.  Individual members face domestic crises and the European Union as a whole faces several collective crises. The eighteen members of the Eurozone have begun to think of themselves as the ‘ins’ and the ten non-members feel like the ‘outs’. Within the ‘ins’ sharp divisions have emerged between the northern members who have managed to contain their debts and the southern members who have not.  Will the European Union survive to its sixtieth birthday in 2017? How will it cope with the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia and with the endless stream of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to seek asylum in Europe? How will the rise of anti-EU parties across the whole continent affect the way the community operates? As we look back on this remarkable story from the twenty-first century, we understand that the twentieth century in Europe created the world in which we now live but that new forces have begun to transform it: Islamic radicalism, globalized capitalism, inequalities of wealth and poverty, the rise of China and the internet’s effect on human behaviour. The course will attempt to give students a contemporary perspective based on a sound grasp of the past.

If you’re interested in this course, you might also like to consider taking Can a Bad Regime Produce Good Art? The Arts under the NazisThe Development of the City from 1890 to 1990 or The Fractured Lens: Propaganda Filmmaking from Eisenstein to Jennings.

Required reading

Readings will be assigned for each lecture and seminar session from the core texts. There will be a small number of copies of each of the core texts on reserve in the library; however, it is strongly recommended that students acquire their own copies of the core texts prior to the start of the course.

  • John Merriman, ‘A History of Modern Europe’. Vol 2 From the French Revolution to the Present. second ed. (New York:W.W. Norton & Co., 2004). ISBN: 0393924955
  • Marvin Perry, Matthew Berg, James Krukones, Sources of Twentieth Century Europe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2003). ISBN: 0395925681
  • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (London: Penguin Books, 1999) ISBN: 978-0-140-24158-4
  • J.M. Roberts, Europe 1880-1945. Third ed. (New York: Longman, 2001). ISBN: 05823357454
  • Ian Kershaw, The End. The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany (London/New York: The Penguin Press: 2011) ISBN 978-1-59420-314-5
  • Tony Judt, Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945 (London: Pimlico Editions, Random House, 2007) ISBN: 97 807 1266 5643
  • Johan Van Overtveldt, End of the Euro: The Uneasy Future of the European Union (Chicago: Agate Press, 27 October 2011) ISBN-10: 193284161X ISBN-13: 978-19328416

Background reading

  • Julian Jackson (ed.), Europe 1900-1945. The Short Oxford History of Europe (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 2002) ISBN 0-19-924428-6 (pbk)
  • Mary Fulbrook (ed.), Europe since 1945. The Short Oxford History of Europe (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 2001) ISBN: 0-19 – 873178 (pbk)
  • T.C.W. Blanning (ed.), The Oxford History of Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) ISBN 978-0-19-285371-4


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)