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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 Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThis course examines origins and expansion of the First World War, from the unification of the Kaiserreich in 1871 to the American declaration of war on Germany in April 1917. The focus is on the July Crisis of 1914 and the interaction between long- and short-term factors in the decision-making process of the various European Great Powers.
Course description Few 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. The course looks at a familiar topic in a new light, employing the mythologies and approaches of International History.
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: 504030).
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.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, command of the body of knowledge considered in the course;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of primary source material;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers.
Reading List
Christopher Clark, Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2012)
Patrick Finney (ed.), Palgrave Advances in International History (2005)
Jessica C.E. Gienow-Hecht, 'Introduction: On the Diversity of Knowledge and the Community of Thought: Culture and International History', in Jessica C.E. Gienow-Hecht and Frank Schumacher (eds.), Culture and International History (2003), pp. 3-26
Richard F. Hamilton & Holger H. Herwig (eds.), The Origins of World War I (2003)
James Joll & Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War (2007)
Margaret MacMillan, The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (2013)
Annika Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War: Causes & Consensus (2001)
Annika Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and Military Documents (2013)
William Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War (2010)
T.G. Otte, The July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914 (2014)
Zara Steiner, 'On writing international history: chaps, maps and much more', International Affairs, vol. 73, no. 3 (July 1997), pp. 531-546
Zara Steiner & Keith Neilson, Britain and the Origins of the First World War (2003)
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 Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
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