Modern Europe: Old and New Europe, 1914-Present

History 158C

Fall 2017
106 Stanley
Day & Time: 
MWF 3-4
Class Number: 

This course covers the dramatic and often troubling events of Europe's past century.  The First World War, now forgotten, was a cataclysm costing millions their lives, and toppling governments as well as the ideas that supported them. At war's end East and Central Europe became staging grounds for national revolutions, and Russia saw the emergence of  an experiment to end human exploitation.  Unresolved tensions led to a second war, at the end of which Europe had abdicated all pretenses to lead the world;  it was not even master of its own fortunes.   The year 1989 seemed to mark a step toward self-governance in freedom and peace, but more recent years have seen the re-emergence of nationalist and semi-fascist populist movements from east to west, testing European unity and domestic political arrangements based in liberal democracy. 

How was all of this possible?  How and why did a continent commit suicide; why and how did it found the resources to return to life; but why is a stable and prosperous future again in doubt?  What does Europe teach us about balancing the forces of the market with popular demands for social security; the ambitions of national interest with the welfare of the international community; the temptations for easy political solutions with the challenges of making politics by consensus?  Europe is home to fascism, Stalinism, and genocide; but also to the welfare state, mass literacy, international comity, and a discourse of human rights. It both attracts and repels migrants, and struggles to find out what the ancient word Europe might mean.