History 226: Europe Since 1945

Course Description

This is the second part of a two-semester survey of twentieth-century and early 21st century European history.  It encompasses the political, socioeconomic, cultural, and colonial history of Europe from the fall of Hitler to the end of the Cold War and the early 2000s.


* Textbook: H. Stuart Hughes and James Wilkinson, Contemporary Europe: A History, ninth ed.

* Leslie Derfler, ed., An Age of Conflict (second ed.)

* Joseph Persico, Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial

* David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb

* Václav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” in Václav Havel and Jan Vladislav, Living in Truth

* Class Pack (available at Campus Copy in Rand Hall)

* Central Library reserve materials

[All these books are on 2-hour reserve at the Central Library.]


Each week’s assigned readings should be finished before the Monday lecture for that week.  In my lectures, I will assume knowledge of the basic facts set forth in the weekly readings.

Written assignments will consist of two essays (4 to 6 pages, double-spaced) on topics to be announced.  These assignments will be due at the beginning of class on Wed., February 23, and Wed., April 5.  Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day.

Students in this class are allowed to revise their written work if they would like to try to profit from the instructor’s comments and produce a more refined final product.  Please see the class pack for detailed guidelines.

I will hold an in-class midterm during the fifth week of the course, and a final exam covering the entire course.  There will be no alternate final exam.

Semester grades will be determined according to the following percentages:

– midterm, 17%

– essay #1 (Nuremberg), 26%

– essay #2 (Remnick/Havel), 30%

– final exam, 27%.

All assignments and examinations for this course will be governed by Vanderbilt’s honor code.  Please read carefully the description of the honor code in the student handbook and the section on plagiarism in the class pack for this course.  If you have any questions about this very important matter, please come and discuss them with me.


Students in this class are allowed the opportunity to try to improve the grade they got on one of their two


papers, by submitting two reviews of films selected from a list compiled by Prof. Bess.

The maximum amount which these two reviews can improve your grade will be 5 points.  For example, a student who gets an 86 (B) on one of his or her papers can submit two film reviews, and potentially increase

his or her credit for that paper to a 91 (A-).  The reviews must be typed, double-spaced, and must be no less than two pages long each; they are graded according to the same criteria as your regular papers.  Two reviews must be submitted (one is not enough).

The deadline for handing in these reviews will be the beginning of class on Wednesday, April 19.  Details of this option, along with a list of acceptable films, are set forth in your class pack.


Week 1

* Wed. — Jan. 12 — Introduction and Overview

Start reading text, chs. 13-15

Start Persico

* Fri. — The Nuremberg Trials

Week 2

* Mon., Jan. 17 — The Moral Burden of Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Read text, chs. 13-15

Read Derfler, chs. 8 and 9; continue Persico

************ Film: “The Nasty Girl” — 7-9 p.m., date and room to be announced

* Wed. — Social and Geopolitical Impact of WWII

* Fri. — Arguments over the Origins of the Cold War

Week 3

* Mon., Jan. 24 — Cold War Forces, Cold War Logic

Read text, ch. 17; continue Persico

* Wed. — The Division of Europe

* Fri. — Postwar Germany

Week 4

* Mon., Jan. 31 — Postwar France

Continue Persico

* Wed., Feb. 2 — Postwar Italy

* Fri. — Postwar Great Britain

Week 5

* Mon., Feb. 7 — The Eastern-Bloc Countries

Finish Persico

****    * Wed., Feb. 9 — Midterm

* Fri. — The Fifties: Trajectory of a Decade

Week 6

* Mon., Feb. 14 — The Khrushchev Era in the Eastern Bloc

Read Derfler, ch. 12

Start reading Remnick and Havel

* Wed. — Moving toward a United States of Europe (Part I)

* Fri. — Moving toward a United States of Europe (Part II)

Week 7

* Mon., Feb. 21 — Science, Scientists, and Technology Since 1945

Read text, ch. 16

Read reserve materials by Sartre, and interview with Foucault

Continue Remnick and Havel

* Wed. — New Currents in Philosophy: Existentialism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism

**************** Essay #1 due, Wednesday, Feb. 23, at beginning of class

* Fri. — Post-modernism: Art in an Ironic Key (Lecture plus slide show)

Week 8

* Mon., Feb. 28 — Class discussion on postwar arts, philosophy, and culture

Read text, chs. 18-19

Read Derfler, ch. 10

Continue Remnick and Havel

* Wed., March 1 — 1956: Year of Turmoil

* Fri. — Decolonization

Week 9


Week 10

* Mon., March 13 — The Sixties: A “Managed Society?”

Read text, ch. 20; read Derfler, ch. 11

Continue Remnick and Havel

* Wed. — Class discussion on Essay #1

* Fri. — France under de Gaulle (Lecture plus film)

Week 11

* Mon., March 20 — The Counterculture of the Sixties

Read text, ch. 21

Continue Remnick and Havel

* Wed. — The Brezhnev Era in the Soviet Bloc

* Fri. — Southern Italy: the Third World Within Europe

Week 12

* Mon., March 27 — Politics in the Seventies and Eighties in W. Europe: General Patterns

Read text, ch. 22

Read Derfler, chs. 13-14

Finish Remnick and Havel

* Wed. — The Scandinavian Social Experiment

* Fri. — Margaret Thatcher’s Britain

Week 13

* Mon., April 3 — Ecological Politics: a Cross-Cultural Realignment?

* Wed., Apr. 5 — Dictatorship and Democracy on Europe’s Southern Periphery: Portugal, Spain, Greece

**************** Essay #2 due, Wednesday, April 5, at beginning of class

* Fri. — The Gorbachev Revolution in the USSR

Week 14

* Mon., Apr. 10 — The Revolutions of 1989: A Second “Springtime of Nations”

Read text, ch. 23

Read Derfler, ch. 12

* Wed. — Class Discussion: What caused the end of the Cold War?

* Fri. — The Morning After: Europe Without the Cold War

Week 15

* Mon., April 17 — European Visions: From “Carolingian Europe” to “Fortress Europe”

* Wed., April 19 — Living with Nuclear Weapons (Film and discussion)

********Last day to hand in film reviews for grade-enhancement option: Wed., April 19

* Fri. — Europe and its Past: Remembering World War II

Week 16

* Mon., April 24 — Europe and its Future: Two Meanings of “Realism”


Review Session for Final Exam: time and room TBA

Final Examination: in normal classroom

(No Alternate Final)