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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Scott Alan Brown
HIST 388
Seattle Campus

Colloquium: Introduction to History

Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.

Class description

From the electoral victory of Solidarity in Poland to the fall of the Berlin Wall to Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution”: the collapse of Communist regimes in rapid succession in Eastern and Central Europe gave rise to the notion that the year 1989 was an annus mirabilis – a year of miracles. Indeed, the (generally) nonviolent triumph of “civil society” that brought the (iron) curtain down on communism in Europe seemed like a victory for “people power.”

And yet, roughly twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain that divided Cold War Europe, there is a lack of both popular and academic consensus on the reason(s) for the collapse of communism. Did earlier crises (such as those in 1956, 1968 or 1981) mark the beginning of the end for communism? Did long-festering crises of legitimacy simply cause Communist rulers to “lose their nerve” when challenged in the late 1980s? Do reformist Communist leaders deserve credit for opening up the political system and facilitating “negotiated transitions” toward democracy and capitalism? Was economic or moral bankruptcy decisive? Was Gorbachev necessary for enabling the collapse? Or was it “civil society” and non-Communist opposition that took down the Communist system?

This junior colloquium explores these and other issues pertaining to the fall of the Iron Curtain. HIST 388 will introduce history majors to the causes, consequences and controversies associated with the collapse of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. Students will develop and hone the skills of historical analysis and interpretation through a series of short papers that will also provide them with the opportunity to explore their own interests in the subject.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Discussions in seminar

Recommended preparation

Prior coursework and knowledge concerning twentieth-century European history is helpful, but not required.

Class assignments and grading

A series of short papers will encourage students to develop various skills of historical analysis.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Scott Alan Brown
Date: 04/25/2010