BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Contesting Hitler's Empire: Resistance and Collaboration in Occupied Europe, 1939-1945

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32271
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No


Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).


Via seminar activities and assessments, a diverse range of primary and secondary source material will be employed to encourage students to examine the intellectual, social and political background of resistance and collaboration in Axis occupied Europe, and to develop nuanced understandings of varied phenomena such as political radicalization, propaganda, combat motivation, ethnic violence and nationalism. Students will also engage with historiographical debates on the root causes of these phenomena, on contemporary perceptions and the political use and abuse of resistance and collaboration and explore some of the most contested historical themes in recent  scholarship.



  • The grey zone, everyday life and the struggle for survival in Hitler’s European Empire.
  • Holy Fools, firebrands, and fraudsters: the politics of collaboration in occupied Europe.
  • A German singularity? Collaboration and complicity in the Holocaust
  • The sharp end: The face of battle in partisan warfare
  • Women in the resistance.
  • Setting Europe Ablaze: Britain and the European Resistance
  • ‘This Heroic Madness’: From Resistance and Collaboration to Civil War
  • Massacres, and reprisals in Occupied Europe.
  • Violent peacetime: enduring violence in post-war Europe.
  • A war without end: commemoration and the politics of memory.

Teaching and learning methods

  • 1 x 3-hour Seminar per week
  • Seminar reading lists and sourcebooks will be made available on Blackboard, as will links to digitised material and other online source/databases
  • Lecture slides will be uploaded onto Blackboard.
  • All Coursework will be submitted and returned via Turnitin

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Encourage students to engage critically with key concepts and historiographical issues in the history of the Second World War in Europe.
  2.  Critically assess the parallels and contrasts evident in the experience of the different groups who choose to contest or assist the formation of Hitler’s New Order in occupied Europe.
  3. Examine the ideological premises and imperatives behind resistance and collaboration.
  4. Asses their military contribution of the resistance groups in the anti-Axis struggle, and their long-term socio-political impact.
  5.  Evaluate the contested contemporary and modern perceptions of resistance and collaboration in Europe.

Intellectual skills

1) Understand the key historical debates framing the rise of resistance and collaboration in Hitler’s Europe.

2) Evaluate the influences, value, and limitations of the key sources: narrative, documentary and material.

3) Identify and evaluate the major historiographical debates underpinning the topic.

Practical skills

1) Effective written communication.

2) Seminar participation and communication of complex ideas to a wider group

3) Analysis of evidence (both primary and secondary source) to establish independent interpretation.

4) Autonomous research

5) Utilisation of online databases and internet resources appropriate to the module.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

1) Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication

2) Accomplish independent research projects

3) Work collaboratively as part of a team

4) Critical thinking and analysis

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical thinking and analysis
Group/team working
The ability to collaborate in team-work settings.
Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities)
Project management
Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence.
Written communication
To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%
Set exercise 40%

Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback on group discussions/in-class tasks


Written feedback on coursework submissions via turnitin



Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by making an appointment)


Recommended reading


  • Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (London: Allen Lane, 2009)
  • Mark Mazower, ‘Military Violence and National Socialist Values: The Wehrmacht in Greece 1941-1944’, Past and Present 134 (1992), pp. 129-158
  • Istvan Deak, Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution during World War II (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015)
  • Vesna Drapac and Gareth Pritchard, Resistance and Collaboration in Hitler's Empire (London: Palgrave, 2017)
  • Robert Gildea, Olivier Wieviorka and Annette Warring, Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe (Oxford: Berg, 2007)
  • Robert Gildea, Resistance, Reprisals and Community in Occupied France, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 13 (2003), pp. 163-185.
  • Ben Shepherd and Juliette Pattinson (eds), War in a Twilight World: Partisan and Anti-Partisan Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1939–45 (London: Palgrave, 2010).
  • Jelena Batinic, Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
  • Pieter Lagrou, The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Europe   1945-1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • Tony Judt, ‘The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Post-war Europe’, in Istvan Deak, Jan T. Gross and Tony Judt (eds.) The Politics of Retribution in Europe (Princeton, 2000), pp. 293-325.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Spyridon Tsoutsoumpis Unit coordinator

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