SYLLABI, '08 editions. First up is History 450, Europe since l945...
History 450—Europe since ‘45
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Well, we’re back to contemplating Modern Europe, or Europe since l945, again. I was not sure what to do about this period in 2005, and I am no more so in 2008. Europe is allegedly united, but divided into more and less “established” camps of states. It supposedly saw the light and renounced war and violence after the horror of the Holocaust, yet was wracked by some of the worst genocide and ethnic cleansing of the century in the territories of the former Yugoslavia in the l990s. It touts itself as modern, tolerant and accepting, yet is continually threatened, and sometimes hit, by alienated young men who have embraced militant Islam. There is no grand national narrative, no unifying theme, that we can lean on in studying the modern history of this region. Therefore, we will look at several episodes in the period that seem to be particularly interesting and/or enlightening, and hope for the best. The first will be the uniting, then division, then reconstruction of postwar Europe, followed by the rise of anticolonialism, with particular emphasis on France and its desperate attempts to hold on to Algeria, Tunisia and Indochina. Then we will examine the Year That Was in Europe as well as America—l968—because we “celebrate” its 40th anniversary this year. The development of a vicious, prolonged conflict between Protestants and Catholics in northern Ireland comes next, and then the story behind the reunification of Europe in l989, the year that everything seemed to become possible.
Since we will be concentrating on four or five key episodes in European history, it seems reasonable to work in some crucial films highlighting some singular aspect of each. Besides, I like film, and Europeans do a great job on them. The first will be the newly relevant “Battle of Algiers,” to accompany the Alastair Horne classic. Next comes “Oratorio for Prague,” a film that began to chronicle the miraculous “Prague Spring” of l968, but ended up being shut down by invading Soviet forces sent to crush it.
“Bloody Sunday,” a re-creation of the worst day of the northern Irish conflict, will be the third offering. Closing out the term will be “Goodbye, Lenin,” an hilarious comment on the end of Communist Europe.
The readings pretty much go chronologically, and as usual, we were limited to what is in print at the moment. Still, the books are pretty good. We begin with the text, Felix Gilbert’s End of the European Era, l890-present. I’m not sure the European era is actually over, but he covers the events between l945 and now very well. I actually have read that book, a TEXT, several times. Alastair Horne’s classic study of the French struggle with its Algerian colony comes next. This book has new relevance in light of the US war in Iraq, since both US and French officials used torture on insurgents, a very controversial development. Heda Kovaly’s memoir, Under a Cruel Star, demonstrates how cruel and unforgiving the Communist regimes were, and how dreadful it was to get Communism as soon as the Nazis were vanquished. With respect to the Irish conflict, one highlight is the determination of a group of Catholic prisoners outside Belfast to resist being categorized as common criminals. They believed they were POLITICAL PRISONERS, not criminals, and deserved to be treated as such. The difference between them and a lot of ordinary mortals is that they were willing to die the most gruesome death in order to dramatize their convictions. The “Hunger Strikers” of l980-81 are the subject of David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead. Whether or not you agree with their ideas, you will be stunned by their resolve. Finally, Timothy Garton Ash’s modern classic, The Magic Lantern, so called since it was thought at the time that only magic, or supernatural forces, could put an end to Soviet domination in eastern Europe. As it happened, it wasn’t magic at all, it was a man named Gorbachev, but there certainly was an otherworldly quality to the events of l989, which united Europe after 50 years of division.
Modern Europe is an M class, meaning writing across the curriculum, It is impractical for everyone to write a term paper, so we will resort to an old warhorse: the semester-long reading and writing assignment(40%). One thing we WON’T probably get to is the dramatic expansion of the European Union that we witnessed in 2003 and continue to watch as the 21st century continues. Thus, YOU will cover this for yourself. You will select one of the countries admitted in 2004(Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia)OR one of the countries now seeking and/or preparing for admission(Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey), seek out 1-3 articles per week dealing with that country. You can select articles that reflect a sort of general acquaintance, or narrow your focus to something specific, like the economy, tourism, political challenges, minority rights issues, etc. You will summarize each article in a paragraph or two, then store the summaries in a folder. About two weeks before the end of the semester, you will write a 3-5 page paper summarizing your findings for a business that is seeking to establish itself there. What are the most important current issues with which these business people should be familiar as they move into the country? Both your summaries AND your final paper will form the basis for your grade on this part of the course, since this is a “writing across the curriculum” offering.
The writing exercise will be worth 40% of the final grade. Other than that, we’ll have a geography midterm, for 20%, a regular midterm(20%) and a final, or second midterm(20%).
Part I, l945-53: Victory, Unity, Recovery, Division, Confrontation
Background to l945
The “big three” and planning for the postwar: two Europes??
Europe and the Marshall Plan: Recovery, retribution, reconquest
The Berlin crisis
Readings: Gilbert, beginnings to chapter 12; start Horne, Savage War of Peace
Recommended readings: Norman Naimark, Russians in Germany, l945-49; Anthony Beevor, Paris after the Liberation, l945-49.
Recommended film: “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
GEOGRAPHY midterm after this section(!). Yes, you will finally have to learn the map of Europe, with all those brand-new countries in it, like Slovenia…or is it SLOVAKIA?!
Part II, The l950s: Reaction/revolt
The east in crisis: Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin
The west in crisis: France and the “colonial wars:” Indochina, Algeria, Tunisia
Featured film: “The Battle of Algiers(l956).”
Readings: Gilbert, chapters 13-14; Horne, all
Recommended readings: Roy Medvedev, Khrushchev: a Biography. Bernard Fall, Street without Joy, Hell in a Very Small Place; Robert Dallek, JFK: An Unfinished Life(new bio of President Kennedy).
Recommended films: “Indochine,” starring Catherine De Neuve
Garden-variety midterm exam after this section…
Part III: l968, the Year that Rocked the World
The USA: reversals, riots, bloody murder
The French crisis
The Czechoslovak l960s and the Prague Spring, January-August l968
Featured film: “Oratorio for Prague(l968).”
Readings: Gilbert, ch. 14; Kovaly, Under a Cruel Star, all.
Recommended readings: William Shawcross, Dubcek; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., RFK: His Life and Times; James Simon Kunen, The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary; David Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight
Part IV: The “Troubles” in Ireland
Prelude to a crisis: Catholics and Protestants in northern Ireland to l967
Catholics and the “Civil Rights movement,” l968-69
“Battle of the Bogside” and the coming of the British Army
Playing hardball with the British: Bobby Sands and the Irish hunger strikers
The road to Good Friday
Featured film: “Bloody Sunday(2003).”
Readings: Beresford, Ten Men Dead, all.
Recommended readings: John Conroy, Belfast Diary; Tim Pat Coogan, On the Blanket.
Part V: Europe re-uniting, l985-89
Ferment in the east: Gorbachev, Reagan and nuclear Europe
Gorbachev and the “satellites”
The “Sinatra doctrine.”
The end of the Berlin wall and the “German problem.”
Featured film: “Goodbye, Lenin(2003)!”
Readings: Gilbert, chapters 16-17; Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern, all.
Recommended readings: : David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb: the Last Days of the Soviet Empire; Slavenka Drakulic, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.
Final exam-- second midterm, actually-- at the scheduled time