Approaches to War and Society in the Twentieth Century (HISM426)

StaffDr Timothy Rees - Lecturer
Dr Nicholas Terry - Lecturer
Dr Laura Rowe - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesThose of entry to the MA Programme
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Students will be expected to gain a full understanding of the main themes explored on the course and to be able to reflect in more general terms on the impact of war on social, cultural and political change in the twentieth century. They will be introduced to the concept of total war and its implications for the way war is conducted; to the history of major civil wars during the century, and the themes they have in common; to the relationship between economic strength, economic structures and the capacity to conduct effective warfare; and finally to a major issue in the social history of armed forces, combat motivation. Most of these approaches will explore the role of civilians and civilian life, both shaped by and shaping the nature of modern wars. The module involves a team presentation as part of the assessment, and this will be based on topics related to the major themes explored in the module. The presentation will help to develop generic skills that will be helpful to students in other contexts. Students will be able to use these broader approaches when they come on to more specialised modules in the MA on War and Society, and be able to identify clearly subjects they might want to pursue further in their choice of dissertation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to locate and evaluate critically the relevant primary and secondary source materials required to investigate a specific historical or methodological question.
  • 2. A detailed knowledge of key themes and approaches in the study of modern societal conflict.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Students should demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence
  • 4. They should be able to identify and understand the nature of original sources.
  • 5. They should have a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates.
  • 6. Students should be able to research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Capacity for independent critical study and thought. The ability to apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids).
  • 8. The ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials. Students should have the capacity to work as an individual and to work with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

Week 1  Module introduction: Approaching war and society in the twentieth century
Weeks 2-3 Total War and the Civilianization of Warfare
Weeks 4-5 Civil Wars
Weeks 6-7 Economics and War in the Twentieth Century
Weeks 8-9 Morale, Discipline and Combat Motivation
Weeks 10-11  Course presentations and final discussion on approaches to war

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 activities22workshops
Guided independent study278independent study

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
Essay383,000 word
Essay373,000 word

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Roger Chickering, Stig Förster (eds), A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction (Cambridge, 2005)

Roger Chickering (ed), Anticipating Total War: The German and American Experience (Cambridge, 1999), introduction ‘Total War: The Use and Abuse of a Concept’

Jürgen Kocka, Facing Total War: German Society 1914-1918 (Oxford, 1984)

Daniel Pick, War Machine: The Rationalization of Slaughter in the Modern Age (New Haven, 1993)

Jeremy Black, The Age of Total War 1860-1945 (New York, 2006)

Robin Higham (ed), Civil Wars in the Twentieth Century (Lexington, 1972)

Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge, 2006)

Patrick M. Regan, Civil Wars and Foreign Powers: Outside Intervention in Intrastate Conflict (London, 2000)

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (London, 1988), chs. 5-7

Stephen Broadberry, Mark Harrison (eds), The Economics of World War I (Cambridge, 2001)

Mark Harrison (ed), The Economics of World War II: Six great powers in international comparison (Cambridge, 1998)

Hein Klemann, Sergei Kudryashov, Occupied Economies (Oxford, 2013)

Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (London, 2006)

Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front, 1941-45: German Troops and the Barbarization of Warfare (London, 1985)

Ben Sheppard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatry 1914-1994 (London, 2000)

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

Simon Wessely, ‘Twentieth-century Theories on Combat Motivation and Breakdown’, Journal of Contemporary History, 41 (2006), pp. 269-86

John Keegan, The Face of Battle (London, 1977)

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?