The first fifty years of Europe’s twentieth century were racked by violence, bloodshed and extraordinary political, economic, and socio-cultural changes. Between 1914 and 1918, an estimated 37 million people perished on Europe’s battlefields. The ancien regime, too, crumbled beneath the weight of four years of unyielding industrial warfare and, in Eastern Europe, revolutionary upheavals. Amidst the ashes of the old Europe, a number of contending visions for a new socio-economic order began to appear. Comparatively older ideologies, such as Communism in Russia, as well as newer ones, such as Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, emerged as challengers to Liberal Democracy. By 1939, Europe’s destiny lay anxiously in the crosshairs between these three diametrically opposed contenders.
The purpose of this course is to explore the various political, social, and cultural upheavals which took place in Europe between the two world wars. In particular, we will analyze the origins and consequences of the “Great War,” the collapse of the Continent’s multi-national empires and the births of new democracies and – in the case of Russia, Italy, Germany, and Spain – dictatorships, the collapse of postwar international law and order, and, finally, the lurch into the catastrophes of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
In addition to studying the history of Europe’s tumultuous interwar years, we will attempt to draw parallels between the topics and themes explored in the course and various contemporary developments. By the end of the course, we will be able to ask ourselves an important, and rather urgent, question: Are we living in another “interwar crisis”?
* Available upon request.