Soldiers in the Twentieth Century: A Global History (HISM029)

StaffDr Ana Antic - Convenor
Dr Gajendra Singh - Lecturer
Dr Nicholas Terry - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module introduces students to key ideas and interventions in the international history of soldiers, war and violence. It will focus on the social and cultural history of soldiers in order to tackle the multiple ways in which the twentieth century’s national and international conflicts permanently transformed societies and individual identities. The scope of the module will be global, and it will look at soldiers in the context of civil wars, the two world wars, colonial wars, anti-colonial and guerrilla wars, a variety of revolutionary and resistance wars, etc. It will engage with the interrelated histories of European, imperial, international and global violence, and invite students to analyse critically the relationships between soldiers, civilians, nation-states, medical experts, imperialism and international politics.


It will be structured around some core questions, such as: What did being a soldier entail at different points in the twentieth century, what was the social status, political capital and cultural image of soldiers, and when and why did those meanings and possibilities shift? Moreover, how was violence experienced by its foremost perpetrators and victims? How were soldiers affected and transformed by their military experiences, and how did they in turn influence and change their own societies? What can cultural representations and public and personal memories of soldiering and military service tell us about different societies and their value systems?


The module will familiarise students with key historiographical debates, and also allow them to engage with interdisciplinary discussions of soldiers’ experiences, and with primary sources.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Locate and evaluate critically the relevant primary and secondary source materials required to investigate a specific historical or methodological question.
  • 2. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of key themes and approaches in the cultural and social history of militaries and paramilitaries in the twentieth century

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 4. Identify and understand the nature of original sources.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates.
  • 6. Research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Develop the capacity for independent critical study and thought.
  • 8. Apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids)
  • 9. Construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 10. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

Exact syllabus may vary year to year but the module will examine topics such as:


The changing figure of a soldier: Regular armies and guerrillas, militias and paramilitaries;

Foreign and colonial soldiers: war as an internationalising experience;

Revolutionary and resistance soldiers: war as political education;

Gendering soldiers: female experiences;

Notions of masculinity and emasculation;

Child soldiers;


Personal experiences of brutality and violence;

Participation in atrocities and the concept of war crimes;

Soldiers in captivity;

Experiences of demobilisation and social re-integration;

Cultural representations of soldiers, war and violence;

Medical care of soldiers and conceptualisations of ‘war trauma’;

Memory and nostalgia

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 Activities2211 x 2 hour seminars.
Guided independent study278Preparation for seminars, essays and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing1-10Oral through discussion with peers and tutor

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
Essay674000 words1-10Oral and written
Individual Presentation3320 minutes and 1,000 word reflective commentary1-10Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period
PresentationScript as for 20 minute presentation and 1,000 word reflective commentary1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of one 4,000 word essay, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script and accompanying visual aids that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech. Instead of reflecting on the delivery of the presentation and its reception, as in the original assessment, the reflective commentary will explore the objectives and intended delivery methods of the presentation.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy, London and New York, Bloomsbury, 2014


Gregory Mann, Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century, Duke University Press, 2016


Nir Arielli and Bruce Collins (eds), Transnational Soldiers: Foreign Military Enlistment in the Modern Era, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012


Nir Arielli, 'Induced to volunteer? The predicament of Jewish Communists in Palestine and the Spanish Civil War’, Journal of Contemporary History, 46, no. 4 (2011), pp. 854-70


Martin Thomas, 'Eradicating 'Communist Banditry' in French Vietnam: The Rhetoric of Repression after the Yen Bay Uprising, 1930-32', French Historical Studies, vol. 34, no. 3, 2011, 611-648


Martin Thomas, The French Colonial Mind: Violence, Military Encounters, and Colonialism, Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 2011


Paul Lerner, Hysterical Men: War, Psychiatry and the Politics of Trauma in Germany, 1880-1930, Cornell University Press, 2008


Ben Shephard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists, 1914-1994, Pimlico, 2002


Hans Pols, 'The Tunisian Campaign, War Neuroses, and the Reorientation of American Psychiatry During World War II', Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 19:6, 313-320


Philip Cooke, The Legacy of the Italian Resistance, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013


Megan Koreman, The expectation of justice: France, 1944-1946, Durham: Duke University Press, 2000


Pieter Lagrou, The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Western Europe, 1945-1965, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000


Catherine Merridale, Ivan's War: The Red Army at War 1941-1945, London: Faber and Faber, 2011

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

History of war and violence; Global history; History of soldiers; Imperial history; History of war medicine; War trauma