Seminar in Post-1700 European History

Cold War Europe: One Continent between Two Superpowers

In March 1946, Winston Churchill famously said that an “iron curtain” that had descended across Europe, separating “the Soviet sphere” from “the Western Democracies.” His words proved prophetic: over the next four decades, the European continent would remain divided between two camps, one allied with the US and the other with the USSR. Europe became a major battleground of the Cold War; European states were both arenas of superpower competition and agents in its eventual resolution. This course explores political, social, and cultural aspects of the Cold War in Europe, paying equal attention to states east and west of the Iron Curtain. What factors drove the division of Europe, and how was this division felt on the ground? How did the US and the USSR try to remake Europe in their image, and to what extent did they succeed? Which phenomena became touchstones of Cold War competition, and which transcended the Iron Curtain? Finally, why did the division of Europe end when it did? Are Cold War legacies still visible today, and how do they shape the prospects for European unity in the future? 

The goal of this course is to produce an original work of scholarship about some aspect of Cold War Europe. Your research paper is due at the end of the semester and should be 18-20 pages in length. All other assignments are designed to help you research and write this paper. They include in-class participation; a preliminary question; a research prospectus; and a paper draft. Be prepared to read roughly 150 pages each week, in addition to your own research. 

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


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