This course provides a survey of the greatest, most destructive war in human history: The Second World War. Perhaps 50 million people were killed in the conflict, and it reached every corner of the globe. Its political, social, and human consequences were vast and shape the world we live in today. Understanding the war – its origins, its course, and its impact – remains one of the great challenges for historians. This class will provide students with a narrative of the war, both in the European and Pacific theaters. It will also ask students to think about a number of broad interpretive questions: why did the war begin? Why was it waged with such ferocity on all sides? What ideas sustained the combatants through so many years of sacrifice? How did the “United Nations” win? Did the victors tarnish their triumph by using certain weapons that killed many innocent people? How have various societies come to remember, and commemorate, the war? Students will read about six books, take two exams and write a 12 page research essay.
This seminar is designed to introduce you to methods and approaches that scholars are using to write histories that cut across national boundaries. Our readings will sample recent scholarship on a wide array of topics, including empire, decolonization, race, human rights and humanitarianism, the cold war, environmental history and public health, international organizations, war and refugees, and a number of other topics. The emphasis is on diversity of method and material, in hopes of inspiring Ph.D. students to think beyond the nation-state. The seminar will feature 5 or 6 current U.Va. faculty members who will come to speak about their own work.
This class investigates the connection between wars and the societies that fight them. The 20th Century has been marred by almost uninterrupted warfare, and we will examine how these wars impacted society across a wide range of human experience. We’ll explore such questions as: Why and how have certain societies waged war? What ideas have motivated and sustained people as they fight? What social, political and cultural consequences has war had in these societies? What means do societies use to justify, legitimate, and canonize war? What ethical problems have these wars raised? And how do we write about war? A major goal of the course is to develop critical perspectives on the ways that a “war culture” is constructed.
This course explores the meaning of “grand strategy” in international politics. The course begins with some of the foundational texts of strategic thought by Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz. We also study examples of leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Otto von Bismarck, Woodrow Wilson, Mao Zedong and George W. Bush. Many of the leaders we will study lived in extremely complex times, and faced unusually difficult sets of political, social, economic and geographical challenges as they set out to advance, or protect, the interests of their peoples. Which leaders were successful and which were not, and why? Which of these individuals developed a coherent “grand strategy” to help guide them and their states as they passed through times of serious crisis and global transformation? Final grade is based on three papers as well as extensive class discussion.