BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
A Transnational History of Europe in the Short Twentieth Century, c.1917-1991

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST21211
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


A Transnational History of Europe in the Short Twentieth Century explores the devastations of the short twentieth century in Europe and asks how Europeans experienced this rollercoaster century. The course’s chronology is framed by events including the Russian revolution, the emergence of totalitarian dictatorships, the Second World War, post-war reconstruction, the Cold War, European integration and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Instead of simply offering a conventional narrative, the course highlights overarching themes in the history of Europe that cut across national boundaries, including migration, decolonisation, and globalisation. Exploring the close links between political ideas and social developments, the course surveys how changing and conflicting political ideologies – fascism, state socialism or the welfare state – and population movements caused by armed conflict have shaped European society at different times. 


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


The aims of this course are:

  • To introduce students to a broad range of relevant themes and historiographical debates associated with the political and social history of twentieth century Europe;
  • To introduce students to critical concepts relating to contemporary social history;
  • To encourage students to adopt a critical perspective to their own understanding of European political and social history;
  • Provide students with a range of background knowledge and tools that can be deployed at levels 3 and 4.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching is delivered via 2 hours of lecture, one hour of seminar instruction, and an additional office hour on a weekly basis. 

All the support materials for the course will be on BB, and the written assessment will be submitted and returned via this medium. 

Covid-19 Contingency Plans for Online Teaching: 

  • If necessary, weekly seminars can be held online via Blackboard Collaborate: this allows live discussions and sharing of slides and other teaching materials with students. 

  • All key readings for seminars will be available online and a large number of primary sources can be made available via weblinks or scans on Blackboard, which means that all teaching materials (including resources for briefing papers) can be accessed remotely by students. 

  • If necessary, the two-hour written exam can be held as an open book exam over two days. 



Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an increased capacity to examine and evaluate the interactions between social, political and economic processes 
  • Demonstrate deeper and more accurate comprehension of key events, structures, and processes in the history of twentieth-century Europe

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluate the ways in which historians choose and use their sources
  • Hone skills of analysis and critical reasoning via a range of forms of written assessment
  • Understand ways in which theoretical perspectives influence historical research
  • Analyse the relationship between politics, economics and society in twentieth-century Europe

Practical skills

  • extend and apply oral and group skills by participating in and leading seminar discussions 

  • write reflective, considered, and well-structured pieces of assessed work applicable to analytic and persuasive communication in a range of professional venues 

  • Construct an argument in a closed on-campus exam under time pressure 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work independently, both within seminars and through individual research 
  • Experience and training in teamwork, argument and debate, as well as time management

Employability skills

As a second-year History course unit, the course provides expert training in - analysis and critical reasoning. - developing important transferable skills in communication and presentation; argument and debate; teamwork; research and time management. - developing concise and critical written analysis.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback and individual discussion (by appointment) for written assessment


Written feedback for exam


Recommended reading

Eley, Geoff, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Hobsbawm, Eric, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (London: Penguin, 1994).

Jarausch, K. H., Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

Judt, Tony, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London: Penguin, 2005).

Kershaw, I., To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 (London: Allen Lane, 2015).

Kershaw, I., Rollercoaster: Europe, 1950-2017 (London: Allen Lane, 2018).

Mazower, M., Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (London: Penguin, 1999).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joanne Laycock Unit coordinator
Christian Goeschel Unit coordinator

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