History 297k: Europe in the 20th Century
Fernald Hall room 11 – MW 10:10 am – 11:00 am
Fall Semester 2010



Dr. Jon Berndt Olsen
Department of History

University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 1-2pm or by appointment
Office:  Herter Hall 609
Telephone: 413.545.6767
Email: jon@history.umass.edu

Web: http://people.umass.edu/jon

Blog: http://blogs.umass.edu/jon


Teaching Assistants:


We have two Teaching Assistants (advanced graduate students) working with this course. Each Teaching Assistant is in charge of three discussion sections. They will lead your discussion sections on Thursdays and will be in charge of grading your exams and papers. If you have questions about the course, please contact your Teaching Assistant first. If you still need assistance, please contact me.

Teaching Assistant Email Address Office Office Hours

Amanda Goodheart


Herter 712

Mon 11:30-1:30

Kathryn Julian


Herter 712

Wed 12:00-2:00





Welcome to History 297K, Europe in the Twentieth Century. During the next fifteen weeks, we will survey the history of Europe and cover some of the most fascinating (and tragic) people, trends, events, and of course wars in living memory. We’ll begin by looking at Europe’s apogee. Europe was at the height of its power. It was looked to by the entire world as the beacon of progress. European empires stretched across the world. Yet all of this would soon change. World War I destroyed a generation. The Great Depression brought unheard of levels of despair, poverty, and political turmoil. The first half of the century saw the rise of new political ideologies and regimes – the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and others. The Great Powers clashed once again during World War II and Hitler’s Germany carried out one of the most horrific campaigns of genocide in human history.

The second half of the century, however, was strikingly different. Out of the dust of the Second World War arose a new Europe, albeit a divided Europe. Communism held sway in the East and Democracy strengthened its hold over the West. These two blocs formed the basis for a forty-year ideological struggle known as the Cold War. Hopes of a united Europe were all but abandoned in favor of a European Union in the West, while Eastern Europe remained under the dominance of the Soviet Union. By the 1980s, however, an internal struggle began in Eastern Europe to liberate themselves from Communist rule. The peaceful revolutions of 1989 across Eastern Europe once again altered the face of Europe. At the same time, decades of economic prosperity brought wave upon wave of immigration and diversity to Europe, which challenged conventional wisdom regarding who was European and who was not.


Through lectures and weekly reading assignments, we will look at all of these topics and several more as we work our way through the history of Europe in the Twentieth Century. The period covered is vast, but you should take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not expected to memorize and understand an infinite number of isolated facts.  The details that illuminate our major themes are the ones that require your most careful attention. Naturally, there is a limit to just how much we can cover as well as how deeply we can delve into any one subject. There will be some issues that you would rather see covered in more depth, while others of you would prefer that I skip some of the ones that I do, in fact, cover.  Hopefully, though, you will find enough here that interests you (and maybe discover some new areas to which you had previously not given much thought) to make this learning experience a valuable and enjoyable one.