HST242: The Origins of the Second World War: The Failure of Collective Security, 1919-1939
20 credits (semester 1)
Professor Bob Moore
Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.
The aim of this module is to introduce students to the study of international relations between 1919 and 1941 through a detailed discussion of the central texts, documents and historiographical debates which have arisen on the breakdown of international security and the outbreak of a global war in 1941. Although centered on Europe, the module will also reflect the increasing importance of the United States, Japan and China in the international relations of the period. Students will be given the opportunity to discuss the general structures of policy-making as well as examining debates on specific issues.
The module will begin with the attempts to (re)construct a system of international security in the aftermath of the First World War and will focus initially on the aims and objectives of the European great powers and their role in establishing the postwar framework of international relations. Consideration will be given to the Paris Peace Settlements of 1919-20 and specific postwar issues, such as the gradual reintegration of Germany into the European state system during the 1920's, the continued isolation of the Soviet Union and the absence of the United States. The module will then examine the various threats which emerged to undermine the stability of 'collective security' in the 1930's, with a view to assessing the inevitability of a total breakdown of the system. This will include the debates on the strengths and weaknesses of the League of Nations as well as the major international crises of the period (Austria, Abyssinina, Rhineland, the Sudetenland and Poland). The module will conclude with an assessment of the seminal events that took place in Europe and the Far East between 1939-41 which transformed an essentially European conflict into a world war.
Students will be encouraged to examine the different perspectives taken by the major powers on each of these crises in order to gain an understanding of why the system created in the 1920's failed to cope with the demands made upon it, and why the powers reverted to earlier systems of diplomacy in order to protect their international position.
Finally, the module will examine the general debates on the origins of the Second World War. Again the focus will be on Europe, but with some attention being paid to essential extra-European factors. Although the discussion has long since moved on from the perspectives of Taylor and Trevor-Roper in the late 1960's, their work can nonetheless be seen as a basis for examining the subsequent historiography and showing how various revisions and counter-revisions have been made to the debate in the last forty years.
The word limit for essays includes footnotes, but excludes the bibliography.
- R. Boyce and E. Robertson, Paths to War: New Essays on the Origins of the Second World War (London, 1989)
- R. Boyce and J. Maiolo, The Origins of World War Two: The Debate Continues (Basingstoke, 2003)
- Philip Bell, The Origins of the Second World War in Europe (London, 1986)
- W. Carr, Poland to Pearl Harbor: The Making of the Second World War (London, 1985)
- Patrick Finney, The Origins of the Second World War (London, 1997)
- A. Iriye, Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War: A Brief History with Documents and Essays (Boston, 1999)
- Graham Ross, The Great Powers and the Decline of the European State System, 1914-1945 (London, 1982)
- Donald Watt, How War Came, 1938-1939: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War (London, 1989)
|Intended Learning Outcomes|
Students completing this module will have developed:
- A broad understanding of significant issues in a substantial period of European history, enabling the identification of major historical debates.
- Their ability to present material in seminars, exchanging views with both the tutor and other students.
- Their ability to research particular historical issues and debates in a more detailed form for essay writing, coming to independent conclusions of the basis of the literature.
- Their ability to synthesise different interpretations and argue effectively from the evidence, drawing on the methodology of both history and political theory.