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Reading the Twentieth Century: Major Themes in Global History




Admissions requirements

Transnational History or Birth of the Modern World or permission of instructor.


This course follows up temporally on the 100-level course Birth of the Modern World and offers a view into major themes in 20th century history. In it, students will study and analyze how historians have analyzed the past by focusing on a variety of themes such as migration, war, culture, consumerism, imperialism and the environment. In the process, students will be guided through individual research projects as they work towards writing an independent historiographical essay on a subtheme of their own choice.

We will start the block by looking at what historiography is and explore what it means to think and analyze like a historian. Historiography is not the study of history itself, but of the ways in which historians have written about and interpreted the past. How did and do historians think and argue about the above mentioned themes? What kinds of questions did they ask and how did they answer them? How did they build their arguments, what methodologies did they use and what kind of debates developed? How did their choice of sources influence their writing and how is it possible that historians who used the same sources can still reach different conclusions? These are the kinds of questions we will explore while closely reading a diverse array of works by historians on the central themes of the course. In the process, students get the opportunity to develop skills in historical analysis and historiographical writing, familiarize themselves with some of the major themes and approaches that have been influential in the field of history during the twentieth century and to develop and reflect upon their own position within historical debates.

Course objectives

After successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • apply a critical perspective when reading and analyzing how historians have written about the past.

  • identify historiographical debates and reflect upon their own position within these debates.

  • analyze and reflect upon major themes in 20th century Global History.

  • devise and execute a well written historical essay.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Historical seminar in which students will be expected to participate actively.


Class participation: 10%
Web postings: 20 %
Midterm essay: 20%
Presentation: 10%
Final paper : 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

There might be one book that students have to buy (TBC). Other literature will be mentioned on blackboard.

Students will be required to do substantial reading in preparation for class and in the context of their respective research projects.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact