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Gregor Thum
HSTEU 414
Seattle Campus

Europe Since 1945

Political, economic, and military developments in Europe under the impact of the Cold War.

Class description

Since 1945, Europe has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a war-torn continent to a region of exceptional prosperity, political stability and internal peace. Not only is the European Union the world's largest economy today, but it has also become a model for supranational integration around the globe. The path toward success, however, was rocky and windy. The history of postwar Europe was marked as much by division as it was by integration. The Cold War split Europe into two hostile camps and militarized the continent like never before in peacetime. Even though the Cold War never turned hot in Europe itself, Europeans east and west of the Iron Curtain realized that they were living on the potential battlefield of a Third World War. Against this backdrop, détente, disarmament and political reconciliation took on special meaning for Europe's societies. It was their determination to avoid another war that led to an unprecedented level of supranational integration in Europe and the eventual emergence of the current European Union.

This course examines the factors that shaped the political and economic life and attitudes of European societies after 1945. Among the themes discussed are the split of the continent during the Cold War; the divergent—and sometimes not so divergent—paths of Europe's capitalist and socialist societies; the legacy of the Second World War and how European societies tried to cope with it; the forms and consequences of European integration on both sides of the Iron Curtain; dissidence and opposition against the prevailing political and economic order in east and west; and the challenges and opportunities posed by the revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of state socialism in Eastern Europe.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course is organized around lectures, readings and discussions, with a strong emphasis on discussion of the readings and lectures.

Recommended preparation

There are no specific prerequisites except for an interest in the course's themes and the willingness to spend the necessary time on reading assignments (at least 4-5 hours weekly).

Class assignments and grading

Apart from preparing the reading assignments (20-40 pages for each class session) and engaging in the in-class discussions, students are expected to write five short essays (2 pages each) based on five class sessions of their choice. In addition to that, there will be 8-10 short unannounced quizzes about the current reading assignments. Since both the quizzes and the essays require serious and steady work, there will be neither a midterm nor final exam.

Grading will be based on the results of the essays (40%), the quizzes (the quiz with the lowest grade won't count toward the final grade) (40%), and oral participation (20%).


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 Gregor Thum
Date: 07/30/2011