HIST 432 (6 cr): International Relations of the Great Powers in the 20th Century

HIST 432

Course Outline

Course Description

The course examines the international relations of the Great Powers in the Twentieth Century, from the origins of the Great War to the ending of the Cold War. Particular attention will be paid to the nature of the international system; the formation and implementation of the foreign policies of the Great Powers; the role of diplomacy and political leadership; the development of international organization and peace movements; the origins of the World Wars; the origins, impact, and ending of the Cold War; and the strategic implications of modern military technology. The objective of the course is to help students acquire a general knowledge and understanding of 20th century international relations and a more detailed knowledge of scholarship on topics where students have a particular interest. The course also invites students to engage with the best of historical writing in international relations and to test their own interpretive frameworks against the various ‘schools’ of modern historiography.

Intended Audience

History 432 is a course recommended for students who are upper division History and International Relations majors; Political Science majors, and for other third- and fourth-year students with a general interest in twentieth-century international relations.

Course Objectives

The three major goals of History 432 are to enable you:

  • to develop a general historical knowledge of the major international events, forces, and issues of the twentieth century;
  • to practice the skills of historical analysis and writing; and
  • to appreciate the nature and importance of critical historical understanding.

Course Overview: Modules, Lessons, Required Readings, E-Resources, History Writing Centre

The course is divided into two Modules and 21 Lessons. The first Module, with its 11 Lessons, covers events from the beginning of the 20th century through the Great War, the peacemaking and its failure in inter-war diplomacy, to the outbreak of a Second World War. The second Module, including Lessons 12 – 21, addresses the history of the Cold War, its origins, development, culmination, and abrupt, surprise ending – with a focus on the two super powers, the United States and Soviet Russia.

The Lessons are designed to introduce students to course content, to direct them to available resources, to help them keep pace with the Course Schedule, and to assist their preparation of assignments and examinations. Each Lesson sets out learning objectives, a commentary, guiding questions, assignments, and required readings, including the relevant chapters in the textbook, The Twentieth Century World: An International History by William Keylor and his Canadian collaborator, Jerry Bannister. This textbook presents an excellent overview of events, conditions, leaders, the roles of the Great Powers, and is organized and written well. It also contains an excellent annotated bibliography to guide students in their reading and essay research. It would be a good idea for students to read through the whole textbook at the beginning of the course, and then read the chapters that are associated with each of the course’s Lessons more intensively.

You will see that the course attempts to make effective use of the increasing store of excellent e-resources – whether primary sources in web-based documentary collections, or secondary sources of writings by historians, mainly accessible through e-journals. These e-resources not only make it possible for students to avoid the costs of expensive readings textbooks, but also utilize the most recent and enduring historiography on key topics in the course. Many of the principal websites relating to modern international relations are listed in the course bibliography and at appropriate points in the Lessons; students should check out these sites early in the course and make use of them regularly.

Students will need to have remote access to e-resources, especially e-journals, through the UBC Library website. This requires setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) portal on your computer, enabling free online remote access to sites and e-journals acquired by the UBC Library. The Library Homepage directs students to the instructions for setting up VPN: http://www.library.ubc.ca/home/proxyinfo.

This is a course which requires lots of reading and careful attention to academic writing style. Reading fine historical literature is perhaps the richest way to nurture clear, grammatical, and engaging writing style. The History Department has established a very helpful web-based History Writing Centre: http://www.history.ubc.ca/writingcentre. This is an excellent resource for developing skills of historical research and academic writing style.

Course Work and Evaluation

  • 8 précis, based on Required Readings (8 x 2.5% = 20%)
  • 6 discussion postings / participation (15%)
  • 2 group presentations (2 x 5% = 10%)
  • 2 term essays, one each term (1 x 10%; 1 x 15%; = 25%)
  • final examination (= 30%)

Course MaterialsHIST432 Textbook Order Form

Required Textbooks Keylor, William & Bannister, Jerry, ed. Twentieth Century World: An International History. 1st Canadian Edition, 2005.

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