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. 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? Did the victors – including the United States – tarnish their triumph by using certain weapons that killed many innocent people? How have various societies come to remember, and commemorate, the war, and what do such practices tell us about the lasting impact of the war on us all, even today?
The following books may be assigned for the class.
William Hitchcock, The Bitter Road to Freedom
Akira Iriye, Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War
David Kennedy, The American People in World War II
Geoffrey Megargee, War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941
Richard Overy, Russia’s War
R.A.C. Parker, The Second World War: A Short History
E.B. Sledge, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa
There will be four graded assignments in the course: a mid-term test, a short book review, a longer research paper and a final.