Friday, 11 January 2008

Distance learning project

Right, boys and girls. This is my first term teaching a) outside of the comforting cosy warmth of Oxford, b) in the icy (that is, unfamiliar) drafts of an American liberal arts college, and c) a course substantially of my own devising.

In a spirit of encouraging participation in higher education, and/or getting some helpful feedback, you too can be part of this terrifying process pedagogical adventure by reading my syllabus and that.

COURSE NAME: "Modern Europe II: The Age of Imperialism"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring Semester 2008


INSTRUCTOR: Spangly Princess
HOURS/PLACE: MW 10:30-11:45
OFFICE HOURS: by arrangement


1878 – 1945: Europe in the Age of Imperialism

This period witnessed an extraordinary transition in the fabric of European life in every sphere: political, military, social, economic and cultural. Revolution and war dramatically reshaped Europe and the political systems of the continent. The course will focus not only on these political and diplomatic changes but on their ideological, cultural and social underpinnings. Rapid social change, particularly with regard to the rights of women, was accompanied by dramatic developments in the history of ideas, and correspondingly in the world of culture and the arts. In the economy, relations within Europe as well as with the global market changed considerably. The course will include the study of both western and eastern Europe as well as encouraging comparison and the analysis of Europe-wide trends.

The course aims to give students a thorough grounding in the key events and developments of this important period of European history. It aims to enable students to analyse and critically assess the most crucial features of the period, not only with regard to political history but to its social, economic and cultural aspects.

N.B. This syllabus is provisional and remains open to amendment, detailed reading assignments to follow.


The course will be taught through two class meetings a week, each consisting of a lecture followed by a class discussion. Classes will proceed through a broadly chronological analysis, usually focusing on a specific country or major event, but the course will also include wider thematic and comparative classes.

Major themes and topics of the course include: nationalism and the modern nation state; imperialism and the relationships between Europe and the wider world; the causes and events of the two world wars; the role of political ideologies and the failure of democracy across much of Europe.


By the end of the course, students should have a good general understanding of the key events and themes of the period 1878-1945.

They will be encouraged to make comparisons across the period and between different states and societies. Students should improve their ability to critically analyse differing interpretations, to reach their own conclusions and to effectively communicate their ideas.


Europe 1880-1945 J. M. Roberts
The Age of Empire E. J. Hobsbawm
A Companion to Modern European History 1871-1945 M. Pugh

Two written exams will be held, a mid-term exam and a final exam. Additionally students will prepare an essay of c. 6,000 words, on a suitable topic of their choice to be agreed beforehand with the instructor. Further discussion of this essay, together with recommended reading, will take place during term.

Participation in class discussion is an important part of the course, and a crucial means of developing your understanding of the subject matter.

Weightings are as follows:

Mid-term exam: 30%
Research paper: 20%
Participation: 10%
Final exam: 40%

Written work will be assessed on the following criteria:

1 - factual accuracy and relevance: correctly using information to support your argument
2 - understanding and analysis: combining your own further reading with material discussed in class to produce a convincing argument
3 - clarity, legibility and presentation: producing a readable, well-written piece of work

Attendance at classes is essential. Your presence and participation in class discussion forms an important part of the course. Regular unauthorised absence will affect your final grade.
Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.


Wk 1 - Jan 21 Europe in the 1870s - an Introduction
Wk 1 - Jan 23 Nationalism, Liberalism, Empire: key political concepts in nineteenth century Europe
Wk 2 - Jan 28 Imperial Germany
Wk 2 - Jan 30 Victorian Britain and the Empire
Wk 3 - Feb 4 Tsarist Russia
Wk 3 - Feb 6 The Habsburg Empire: Austria-Hungary
Wk 4 - Feb 11 France under the Third Republic
Wk 4 - Feb 13 Liberal Italy
Wk 5 - Feb 18 Ottoman Turkey and the Balkans
Wk 5 - Feb 20 The Fin-de-Si├Ęcle: cultural and intellectual change in turn of the century Europe
Wk 6 - Feb 25 European Colonialism: Africa, Central Asia and the Far East
Wk 6 - Feb 27 Causes and Origins of the First World War
Wk 7 - Mar 3 The First World War
Wk 7 - Mar 5 MID-TERM EXAM
Wk 8 - Mar 10 The Treaty of Versailles and the Crises of the 20s
Wk 8 - Mar 12 Lenin, the Russian Revolution and the Civil War
Wk 9 - Mar 17 The failure of Democracy I: Mussolini and the creation of Italian Fascism
Wk 9 - Mar 19 The failure of Democracy II: Franco's Spain and the Civil War
Wk 10 - Mar 31 The failure of Democracy III - the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism
Wk 10 - Apr 2 Democracy between the wars I: France
Wk 11 - Apr 7 Democracy between the wars II: Britain
Wk 11 - Apr 9 Eastern Europe between the wars
Wk 12 - Apr 14 Southern Europe between the wars: Portugal,Yugoslavia, Greece
Wk 12 - Apr 16 Stalin's Russia
Wk 13 - Apr 21 Hitler's Germany
Wk 13 - Apr 23 Causes and Origins of the Second World War
Wk 14 - Apr 28 From Bliztkrieg to Barbarossa: Europe at War 1939-41
Wk 14 - Apr 30 Germany defeated, 1942-45. Conclusions.

Readers who have questions, queries, comments, criticisms or smart-arse remarks to make, go right ahead.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun!!! Good luck Spangles!

punk said...

vai spangles!

io assisterei a tutte le tue lezioni!:)

ursus arctos said...

Highly ambitious. I think they are going to be scared (which I would argue is a good thing).

Tom said...

My lord, that's a big subject to handle in one term. Your syllabus is impressively detailed (at least compared to the ones I prepare, which just say "turn up and participate").

Did you consider assigning Mazower's Dark Continent as well? It's an excellent synthesis for university teaching purposes.

Chelsea Boy said...

That looks like the sort of thing that would have me running for the hills in fear of close proximity to the paper melting my brain.

Marina said...

all I can thing of is how much I wish I could take this course!

Shep said...

Eric Hobsbawm rocks!

Antonio Gurrado said...

May I change university?


Garibaldy said...

Do you need to add bullshit to your learning outcomes about drawing on a wide range of sources, developing their written and verbal communication skills etc?

I also think you should have the Russian Revolution class before the one on Versailles and the 20s.

Garibaldy said...

By the way, what's this Stalin's Russia business? Surely you mean the peace loving peoples of the Soviet Union and Socialist Democracy. In fact, given it was Uncle Joe and the Soviet masses that defeated Germany, perhaps you might rethink the failure of democracy, and call that section, the victory of socialist democracy.

Anonymous said...

You'll be brill darling - I have all confidence in you, as always. Have not the time to read all of it now as off to Cornwall tomorrow morn with new man. Good luck but you will shine! P xxxxxx

Spangly Princess said...

Thankyou for the positive comments. It seems like a lot to cover but hopefully it will work.

the class order swapping idea is a sensible one, ta.

However while I think that teaching a bunch of Americans about the peace loving peoples of Soviet Russia and Socialist Democracy would represent an effective challenging of view points and might be highly entertaining besides, I think we both know it's not going to happen. Perhaps I can invite you as guest speaker that week?

Garibaldy said...

I'll see if I can make it to have a friednly chat with your students about the Soviet Union. I think they'd like that.

Good course. The fin de siecle intellectual stuff - Social Darwinism? Being Americans they'll expect a lot of this crap, Edward Said etc I imagine.

One minor point worth thinking about is how you fit socialism in. The idea of Nationalism and imperialism as a way of distracting workers etc. Doesn't seem to be much room for it in your plan. Add it briefly to the one on C19th ideas perhaps? Of course I could just be biased.

Spangly Princess said...

Socialism goes into my key political concepts class. Biased you may be, but it doesn't make you wrong (always). I want to do that at the start so then they know what's what in later classes. I might even mention *gasp* gender.

and yeah, social darwinism is indeed important, especially with the imperialism. Said, yeah, very likely. am going to go & poke about in their library on Monday to see what books they've got and draw up my bibliography.

Garibaldy said...

Gender? I'm shocked, stunned and saddened.

No matter what you ask them to read, they'll all yap on about Foucoult regardless. Bloody yanks.

ursus arctos said...

It cheers me to see that Garibaldy has such a high opinion of US students and teaching methods.

As it happens, my own first year history tutorial was heavily Marxist, and never touched on Foucault (or this other guy).

To each his own, I guess. Though it must be said that I do fear that your students will live up to other American stereotypes, particularly those of the clueless on their junior year abroad.

I would consider weighting the research paper a bit more heavily, given that it is the only original work that they are going to be doing. But that decision is of course up to you.

Chelsea Boy said...

Personally I think we should lock the pinko bastard up in Guantanamo before he infects those poor kids with any more of that lefty bollocks.

Garibaldy said...


I hope that pinko remark isn't aimed at me. I'm deep red.


Alas my opinion of US students is based on experience garnered of exactly the useless JYA people you mention. As for teaching methods there, some of the stuff is great. But much of it is utterly nonsensical, and caricatured.

ursus arctos said...

Fair enough garibaldy, I care too much about my credibility to defend either, when neither my heart nor head are in it. I find the privileged clueless particularly appalling, as they are taking places from more serious students who could genuinely benefit from the experience (both academic and non-academic).

chris c paul said...

I'd be tempted to look at the growth and failure of internationalism over this period.

I'd also divide the intellectual developemtn into three perods. pre 20th century. Pre- WW1. Post WW1.

The impetus given to the avant garde, communism, and what became fascism, post WW1 needs to be looked at.

Also- science, truth, and uncertainty. European thought post the theory of relativity...

but yes, you are ticking all the boxes, touching all the beases etc. I was awaiting the football bit though...

Did you know Oswald Mosely supported QPR...

check out my completely unrelated blog at

Juventino said...

The dog ate my homework. Honest.

TrentToffee said...

...what, no multi-guess exam !! How does that work ?

A suggestion for a further topic :-

"How the Europeans finally learned to hate war (except for the British of course, who learned that beating each other up was much more fun instead)"

Good luck. You're a winner.

Antonio G said...

If you're doing "the lights go out all over europe", it's traditional to do it in the order the lights went out (Italy, Germany, Spain). What's your thinking behind reversing the order (March 19 and March 31)?

Hope things have started well...

Antonio G said...

Also, it's very mean of you to schedule a mid-term exam the day after a chamions' league match.

Spangly Princess said...

Chris: sadly there is no real football element. Though when I was thinking "why do we start in 1878" the first thing which that date means to me is the foundation of Everton Football Club. It would be quite funny to give a class on Everton instead of an introduction to Europe in the 1870s. They might all drop the course by week 2 if I did that though.

Why reverse the order of Spain & Germany? um. You imply that there was thinking behind it as opposed to chance. heh. I suppose partly because the chronology of the course is only very loose, and I don't myself hold that Nazism is a particularly important influence in the early part of the rise of Spanish fascism, and so doing Spain first is a way of avoiding the Fascism -> Nazism / Mussolini -> Hitler teleology which otherwise is implicit.

Antonio G said...

Agreed about the origins, but without reference to the rise of Nazism the international dimension of the Civil War is a bit harder to explain, no?

Anyways, I agree with Urs, a highly ambitious course and I'm completely jealous because I haven't done any good history larnin' for - well, too long (although I just finished Tom Holland's "Rubicon" which was a cracking read about Rome).

Does your college record your classes and put the result in pod format? Can one listen in?

chris c paul said...

antonio- Histroy of Europe Norman Davies is good (or at least the introduction is which Is far far as I've got 'so far'). It is long though- so if you are not deterred by 1300+ pages it is well worth a go

Antonio G said...

I put up with a thousand pages of his History of Poland as an undergrad. I think that's probably my lot with him, but let me know how the rest of it goes and perhaps I shall have a read