BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Revolution, Conflict, Democratization: East Central Europe, 1848-1939

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32362
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course will explore the history of East Central Europe from the mid-nineteenth century to the Second World War by focusing on the fraught fight for democracy in the region, characterized by progress and backlash. It will investigate the revolutionary aspirations, the democratic demands they generated, and the repression that crushed them. The course will introduce students to the region’s recent past while engaging with broader discussions on the specificities of its relation to democracy, the similarities with other European and non-European contexts, and the interactions of the democratization process with nationalism, capitalism, and the First World War. This module will appeal to students wishing to learn more about this part of Europe and reflect on the development of democracy in modern societies. With this region as a case study, it will examine the battles for suffrage extension, the birth of mass politics, and the changing conceptions of citizenship.


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


•              Develop knowledge on a part of Europe generally less covered in continent-wide surveys

•              Encourage students to reflect about key notions such as revolution and democracy and appreciate how these were understood in the past

•              Assess the links between modernization and democratization as well as the setbacks encountered in this process and question linear narratives automatically linking the two

•              Challenge students to think critically about the development of European democracy and the crucial moment of the battle for suffrage rights

Teaching and learning methods

Workshop activities: introductory “lecture” on a subject, various seminar activities, presentations

Knowledge and understanding

•              Demonstrate a familiarity with the modern history of East Central Europe, a region whose particular relevance within the continent has been recently highlighted

•              Engage with theories and historiography on the historical development of democracy in Europe

•              Recognize the complex nature of democratization as a non-linear process and understand the precarious nature of democratic gains

•              Assess the impact of revolutions, reforms, and wars on the conceptions of citizenship and democracy

Intellectual skills

•              Critically evaluate major historiographical debates on nationalism, socialism, and democracy and being able to build a convincing argument around these issues

•              Locate and critically analyse information from a wide range of primary and secondary sources on the different topics covered

•              Reflect on the concrete implementation of principles, on the tension between ideals and everyday practice through the confrontation of different types of historical sources

Practical skills

•              Plan and construct an effective independent research plan

•              Navigate the different online resources available to find relevant information

•              Write well-structured essays that develop a coherent argument

•              Communicate ideas clearly both in writing and in discussions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•              Presenting information in a comprehensible and succinct manner in front of others

•              Being able to quickly discriminate the most useful sources of information on an unfamiliar topic and summarize vast amounts of knowledge in an effective manner

•              Enhance team working skills during seminar group activities

Employability skills

Oral communication
The discussions and presentations will help students develop confidence in public speaking and group activities will develop their ability to collaborate with others.
Problem solving
The skills gained through independent research will prepare students to find relevant information while efficiently managing their own workload. The critical thinking encouraged in this course will enable students to propose creative solutions in a workplace setting.
Written communication
The written assessments will prepare students to synthetize information in a manner that is clear and to the point.
This course will raise students’ awareness of the events and processes that shape political cultures and civic practices. This broader outlook on the fight for and against democratic cultures can be useful in many careers but particularly for students interested in pursuing careers in policy-making, the civil service, or journalism.

Assessment methods

Source analysis  30%

Essay     70%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback on (non-assessed) group presentation and seminar activities


Written feedback on the source analysis and the essay assignments


Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hours)


Recommended reading

Pieter Judson, The Habsburg Empire: A New History (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2016)


Christopher Clark, Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World 1848-49 (London: Penguin Book, 2023)

Jakub Beneš, Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)

Robert Blobaum, Rewolucja: Russian Poland, 1904-1907 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995)

Irina Marin, Peasant Violence and Antisemitism in Early Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe

(palgrave, 2018)

Eliza Ablovatski, Revolution and Political Violence in Central Europe: The deluge of 1919 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Mate Rigo, Capitalism in Chaos: How the Business Elites of Europe Prospered in the Era of the Great War (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2022)

Tara Zahra, Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the World Wars

(ww Norton, 2023)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Claire Morelon Unit coordinator

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