The Great War: A Comparative History: Context (HIH3411)

StaffDr Laura Rowe - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at level 1 and/or level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3410 The Great War (Sources)
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will focus on the social, cultural and military aspects of the Great War. It will look at the war on land, at sea, in the air and on the home fronts. It approaches the First World War as a world war and will take a transnational and comparative approach. Whilst it will discuss Britain and the Western Front as part of this, the bulk of the module will be devoted to other theatres of war and other combatant nations. It will draw comparisons between countries – looking for similarities and differences. It aims to refocus students’ minds on the contemporary character of the war by divorcing it from the popular idiom of the Great War as ‘futility and slaughter’. It will achieve this through an analysis of the operational aspects of the war, the experiences of both fighters and civilians, and also consider how the memory of the war has come to be formulated as it has been by later generations.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate critically the main themes of, and the historiographical problems surrounding the topic
  • 2. Analyse critically military campaigns and their impact on the course of the war both on the battle front and within a wider context of ‘total’ war

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Assess critically the impact of the war on the civilian population, and evaluate the long-term cultural significance of the war
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

Topics will include: 
• The ‘origins’ of the war; 
• Mobilisation; 
• The military-industrial state; 
• ‘Total’ war; 
• Alliance warfare; 
• Land, sea and air combat in all theatres of operation; 
• Morale and discipline; 
• Brutality and atrocity; 
• Diplomacy; 
• Neutrality; 
• Civilian governance and military leadership; 
• Economic warfare; 
• Home fronts; 
• Women and war; 
• Civilian striking & unrest;
• Revolution; 
• Peace treaties; 
• Remembrance; 
• Issues of theory and methodology

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course.1-7, 9Verbal from tutor and fellow students.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay253000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written
Essay253000 words1-8Verbal and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Jay Winter & Antoine Prost, The Great War in History (Cambridge: CUP, 2005)

Jay Winter, The Experience of the First World War (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988)

Paul Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (London: UCL Press, 1994)

Hew Strachan, The First World War, I, To Arms (Oxford: OUP, 2001)

N. Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books, 1998)

Alexander Watson: Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)

Richard Smith: Jamaican Volunteers in the First World War: Race, Masculinity and the Development of National Consciousness (Manchester: MUP, 2009)

Holger Herwig, The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 (London: Hodder Arnold, 1996)

Leonard V. Smith, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau & Annette Becker, France and the Great War (Cambridge: CUP, 2003) 

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

The World War I Document Archive (

Project Façade ( (

The Great War Archive: A Community Collection (

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive (

Other documents will be available on ELE

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date