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The European Civil War, 1914-1945


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


In 1914 prosperous Europe unwittingly ruined itself. Thirty years later the continent literally was in ruins and ninety millions dead and displaced persons were to be mourned. This seminar focuses on the question why these thirty years (1914-45) were so extremely violent and destructive. What forces have been unleashed in this period? To answer this question we will especially pay attention to the next themes: the many legacies of the First World War, the ethnic problems after 1918 caused by the decline of three large multi-ethnic empires, the battle between the three major ideologies – communism, fascism and liberal democracy – and the importance of the idea of a Racial Utopia.

The course will start with an entry test on M. Mazower, Dark Continent, Ch. 1-7.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following: in the specialisation Political Culture and National Identities on political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800.

  • 12) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:in the specialisation Political Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  • 13) acquires thorough knowledge of the European history 1914-1945 from a ‘transnational’ perspective.

  • 14) acquires insights into the main historiographical and theoretical controversies in this field of research.

  • 15) N.B. For their final Paper Research Master students analyse a corpus of sources with a higher complexity in comparison to regular MA students; and they also set up original research which raises new questions and pioneers new approaches of research.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load for the course: 280 hours.

  • Amount of lectures: 26 hours.

  • Assessment: 2 hours

  • Preparation lecture / assignments: 13 x 6 hours = 78 hours.

  • Assignments (paper a.o.): 174 hours.

Assessment method


  • Written paper: ca. 7500 words (based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8; 11-14

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 11-14

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7; 11-14

  • Assignments (a.o. identifying and selecting literature and primary sources)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8; 11-14


  • Written paper: 70 %

  • Entry test: 10 %

  • Oral presentation: 10 %

  • Assignments: 10: %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficent.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • practical information,

  • Power Points,

  • links to primary sources,

  • additional literature etc.

Reading list

  • M. Mazower, The Dark Continent. Europe’s Twentieth Century (Londen etc. 1998)

  • S. Zweig, The World of Yesterday/ Die Welt von gestern (1942)) (a dutch translation is also allowed)
    Both books can be bought in ordinary bookshops or ordered from internet.
    There will also be a list of articles/ primary sources to be read (on Blackboard)

!N.B. The entry test will be about M. Mazower, Dark Continent, Ch. 1-7.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


dr. Patrick Dassen


It is very useful when students are able to read German texts.