Special Topics in Comparative History: World War II

History 100U.001

Fall 2016
160 Kroeber
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-330p

The Second World War was true to its name. It was not the first war fought on a world scale or to shake the established order among powerful states and their empires. Indeed the second followed the first by less than two decades and is inexplicable without reference to that conflict, including its terms of settlement. But the second, which merged two vast conflagrations in Europe and Asia, was destructive on a scale all its own. This was the first ideological war, not simply about territory, but about conflicting ideas on how governments should organize lives of their citizens. The war tested fascism, socialism and liberal democracy. Because of the furies it unleashed, the war harnessed entire populations—men, women, children—in sacrifice, suffering and in some cases profit. It left in its wake the Holocaust, the massive destruction of cities from the air, and the first use of atomic weapons in warfare; it was followed by the liquidation of European and Japanese colonialism, the advent of the Cold War, the undermining of racism in political and public life and the emergence of human rights as a norm in the conduct of international relations.

This lecture course invites students to think through the Second World War in three stages, considering first its causes, then the course of conflict in all its theaters, and finally its consequences, into our day. Readings will include major works of historical synthesis along with selected documents, literary treatments, oral histories, and films.

Course Books

The Penguin History of the Second World by Calvocoressi , Peter Penguin. ISBN: 978-0394578118 Required
Hitler's World View by Jackel, Eberhard Harvard UP. ISBN: 978-0674404250 Required
Choices under Fire by Bess, Michael Vintage. ISBN: 978-0307275806 Required