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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: The Origins of the First World War, 1871-1917 (HIST10355)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryFew episodes in the history of modern Europe have attracted such intense and lasting historical interest and debate as the July Crisis and outbreak of war in 1914. The chain of events that led to the outbreak of the First World War still offers one of the most dramatic and intellectually enthralling narratives in modern history: it begins with suicide assassins in the service of a extra-territorial terrorist movement and ends with the ultimate exercise in modern international brinkmanship. This course retraces the unfolding of the crisis, beginning with the unification of Germany in 1871 and ending with the entry of the United States of America into the war on 6 April 1917. In addition to analysing the motivations and reasoning of the key decision-makers, the aim of the course will be to focus on such issues as the impact of terrorism on a fragile international system, the role of 'risk' in the calculations of key actors, the relationship between long- and short-term planning, the impact of intelligence, the importance of historical precedent, the significance of inadvertency, error and misunderstanding, and the role played by armaments and military threat analysis. The course will examine the historiographical debates that have raged since the drafting of the 'war guilt clause' of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and employ archival and other documentary material to evaluate them on the basis of their evidential strengths and weaknesses.
Course description Semester 1

1. Introduction and Course Map
2. From Vienna to Versailles: The European State System in the 'Short' Nineteenth Century
3. The Great Powers to 1914 (I): The Entente Powers
4. The Great Powers to 1914 (II): The Central Powers
5. The 'German Problem' and the Emergence of an Alliance System
6. Imperialism and Economic Rivalry
7. War Aims and the Strategic Planning of the Great Powers
8. The Arms Race
9. Revolutions & Railroads: The Eastern Question to 1911
10. Domestic Causes (I): Intellectual Justification for War
11. Domestic Causes (II): The Challenge of Socialism

Semester 2

12. Diplomatic Crises, 1905-1911
13. Rogue State?: The Rise of Serbia
14. The Road to Sarajevo: The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913
15. The July Crisis & the Outbreak of War
16. From Balkan War to World War
17. The Question of Responsibility
18. The Ottoman Decision for War
19. The Entente Expanded: Italy & Romania
20. To Save Democracy?: Wilson & the American Decision for War
21. The Long Debate, 1914-2012
22. Conclusion: An 'Avoidable' or 'Inevitable' War?

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.
Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503783).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting Students should usually have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
Students who take this course will be able to demonstrate through written coursework, examination and participation in class discussions:
1.The ability to identify, compare and evaluate key theories about the origins of the First World War; to understand the origins of these theories in their particular political and historiographical contexts and to understand the documentary and archival bases on which these theories are made and to evaluate them on the basis of their evidential strengths and weaknesses.
2. An understanding of the principal influences which transformed continental Europe, and let to the outbreak of war in 1914, and the subsequent expansion of the conflict. The course will have a particular emphasis on the challenge posed to the stability of the international system by the unification of Germany, and a critical assessment of the principal domestic and external developments affecting both the major and minor powers in Europe
3. A better understanding of comparative historical method
4. A familiarity with a selection of relevant contemporary sources
5. A capacity to evaluate conflicting historical interpretations
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will acquire an enhanced capacity to:
1. Grapple with complexity and construct an academic argument
2. Integrate diverse material and to reason comparatively across various cases
3. Improved presentational skills through seminar presentions and essay-writing
KeywordsOrigins First World War
Course organiserMr David Kaufman
Tel: (0131 6)51 3857
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Stobie
Tel: (0131 6)50
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