Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
World Politics in the Age of the Two World Wars
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 16 X 1 hr lectures
Seminars / Tutorials 8 X 1 hr seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  60%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   2 Hour Written Exam  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Discuss concepts such as 'causation', 'sources', 'evidence', 'historical argument' and 'historiography'.
2. Discuss the character of European colonialism in the late 19th Century
3. Discuss the general interpretive approaches to the origins of the First World War
4. Discuss the nature of the First World War and its impact on the international system
5. Discuss the impact of the Russian Revolution on world politics after 1917
6. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the role of nationalism and particularly the concept of `national self-determination' in the peacemaking that followed the First World War.
7. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the general dynamics of Fascist and Nazi ideology, in particular as they relate to international relations
8. Demonstrate a sound general grasp of the impact of the Great Depression on the global system
9. Discuss the character of politics in East Asia between the two world wars and the events leading to Japan's bid for regional hegemony
10. Discuss the general historiographical debates concerning the origins of the Second World War
11. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the central elements of international politics during the Second World War
12. Discuss debates over the origins of the Cold War.

Brief description

This module will introduce students to the nature and practice of international history by examining global international relations during the era of the two world wars (1914-1945).


The module begins by examining the international system before 1914. It will focus on the dynamic role of European colonial expansion in shaping this system, examining this issue from the perspective of both colonizers and colonized. It will then go on to consider the breakdown of this system between 1900 and 1914. The focus will then shift to the international politics of the First World War as it became a global conflict. The Russian Revolution and its impact on world politics will be central to this part of the module. After studying the peace settlement that ended the war it will turn to the troubled period between the wars. The focus will shift from Europe to North America to the wider world as we reflect upon the impact of the First World War on European relations, Atlantic relations and the European colonial empires. It will then consider the relationship between the Great Depression and the radicalization of international politics in the 1930s. Key issues here will be the rise of radical political movements, particularly in Europe, and their role in the progressive dismantling of the post-1919 system. Of particular interest will be the place of war and revolution in Fascist and Nazi ideologies. It will then consider the polarization of politics in Europe, paying particular attention to the Spanish Civil War, before moving on to examine the coming of European and then world war in 1939 and 1941. Throughout, emphasis will be placed on the inter-related character of politics in various regions, from Europe to the Pacific to Africa. The final section of the module will consider the politics of the Second World War from a range of angles: from the role of the colonies to grand strategy to the origins of the Cold War and the coming of a bipolar system.

1. Introduction
2. World politics before 1914
3. The origins of the First World War
4. Strategy and politics during the Great War
5. The Russian Revolution
6. The Paris peace settlement of 1919
7. European reconstruction after the First World War
8. The First World War and empire
9. The Great Depression and international politics
10. The Rise of Fascism and Nazism
11. The coming of the Second World War in Europe
12. Japan's bid for hegemony in East Asia
13. The Second World War and the global balance of power
14. The Second World War and genocide
15. The Second World War and empire
16. From Second World War to Cold War


1. The international system before the First World War
2. The origins of the First World War
3. The impact of total war
4. The 1920s and post-war reconstruction
5. The origins of the Second World War in Europe
6. The origins of the Second World War in the Pacific
7. The international politics of the Second World War
8. The politics of imperialism and decolonization


This module has the broadest aim of tracing the evolution of the world system from 1900 through to the end of the Second World War in 1945. It assumes no previous knowledge of the period, but it will demand of the student a regular attendance at the lectures - which form the intellectual spine of the course - as well as at the eight seminars where students will be able to exchange views and test their understanding of the material.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number During the module students will be required to undertake some data collection, numerical analysis and interpretation of particular key concepts.
Communication Students will learn how to articulate their ideas verbally and also to convey them in a clear and well-structured way in written form. They will, in addition, learn how to assert themselves to advantage. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and teamwork will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convener and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay. The need to contribute to seminar discussions and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning Discussions in seminars, in particular, will help to develop students' verbal skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare for seminars will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed in seminars by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Research skills The submission of an essay will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for a seminar presentation will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken and that their understanding of key concepts is of a suitable standard to undertake honours level work.
Subject Specific Skills Students will learn the basics of using historical methodology. This will entail chiefly developing the ability to use evidence in a sophisticated way to make an argument. They will also be expected to provide detailed and accurate references to their source.
Team work Team work will not be a central component of this module. But students will need to learn how to interact and communicate effectively in group contexts during seminars.


This module is at CQFW Level 4