European Postwar Orders, 1919-1991. European and American Perspectives

Course Description: 

This course explores the history of attempts to create a more durable and legitimate international order for 20th-century Europe – both after the two world wars and after the cold war. Placing them in a global context, and introducing classic and new perspectives of historical research, it focuses on different European and American contributions to these processes. It thus re-appraises the transformation of the European order from the competitive great-power system of the era of World War I to the divided “peace system” of the cold war and, eventually, aspirations for a united Europe after 1989 that have been so profoundly challenged in recent years. 

Comparing and contrasting European and American perspectives on this transformation process, the course not only focuses on the fundamental changes in policies, ideas and ideologies that informed approaches to peace and the international politics between states; it also highlights transnational forces and non-governmental influences that had a formative impact on the remaking of Europe. 

Core themes include: the changing international, domestic and transnational conditions of peacemaking and legitimate order in Europe; European international systems from the European Concert to the European Union; the pivotal role of the United States; confluent and competitive European and American ideas, ideologies and approaches to security, political reform, economic and financial order; competing ideas and ideologies of nationalism and internationalism; and changes in the prevalent norms and rules that were supposed to govern European international relations. Here the focus will be on “western” yet also competing communist rules and norms of collective security, self-determination, human rights and supranational integration.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course aims to foster the critical engagement with primary sources as well as recent and classic scholarship on transatlantic international history in the 20th century. In particular, students will be familiarised with different approaches and methods of international, transnational and comparative history. Further, the focus will be on developing and improving the participants' analytical and presentation skills by encouraging work with select primary sources, in-depth discussion of assigned secondary literature and requiring each student to give a short presentation on one of the course's main topics.


The course assessment will be based on two components:

1) active participation in class discussions (75%);

2) short presentation (15 minutes) on one of the course’s topics or central questions (25%).

Please note: Because this is a compact class participants are requested to do the readings for the first meeting before the beginning of the course.