General History XIV: 1941–1973
This paper is designed to introduce students to world history in the period 1941-1973. It is taught through tutorials and lecture series designed for the course. Students are also able to attend a wide variety of lectures on particular regions given by area specialists. The course offers a great deal of choice and provides the opportunity to study a large number of individual countries and particular topics, but those taking the paper are encouraged to concentrate on two or three out of five central themes: the international relations of the period; the political and economic development of the ‘West’; the communist world; decolonisation and the establishment of new states outside Europe; social and cultural change.
Many of those taking the course examine the origins and development of the Cold War and its broader effects on international relations. The collapse of the wartime alliance and the changing relations between the superpowers from confrontation to detente are examined. Students are encouraged to explore the effects of the Cold War on the politics of various regions, including the Middle East, South-East and East Asia. They can also explore the more economic aspects of international relations during the period. A second central theme is the establishment and development of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. Students can examine the nature of the regimes, and analyse their differing responses to internal pressures and to changes in the communist world following the death of Stalin. They can also explore these issues through a more detailed analysis of the attempts of Tito, Khrushchev and Mao Zedong to create their own models of non-Stalinist socialism, and by studying rebellions against communist regimes, from the Hungarian uprising to the Prague spring. A third set of themes is the economic and political reconstruction of the ‘developed’ non-communist world. In particular, the development of European economic and political integration, and the creation of stable liberal democratic polities in Western Europe and Japan are examined. Students are also given the opportunity to study the United States, analyzing the internal political struggles over socio-economic, foreign policy and racial issues during the period. A fourth set of related issues concerns the causes, nature and aftermath of decolonization and the history of the developing world more generally. Students can compare French, British and Dutch decolonisation and explore the often violent outcomes of these processes, particularly in Palestine, India, Indo-China, Algeria and Indonesia. The development of post-colonial states is also examined, and students are encouraged to focus on particular regions, whether sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia or South-East Asia. A fifth set of themes includes the social and cultural changes of the period, including questions such as the influence of American culture and the emergence of radical cultural movements in the late 1960s.
From Finals in 2007, the examination paper has reflected this structure, and has been divided into five sections:
The cold war; international economics; the UN and other international organizations, etc.
(2) The ‘West’:
The US; western and southern Europe; Japan.
(3) The Communist World:
The Soviet bloc; China, etc.
(4) Decolonization, Post-Colonial States and the Developing World:
Africa; S. and S.E. Asia; the Middle East; Latin America.
(5) Social and Cultural Change:
Gender; cultural themes; 1968; social movements, etc.
The rubric of the examination paper will require candidates to answer questions from at least two sections. A specimen paper demonstrating the new structure of the paper is available from tutors as well as at the History Faculty Office. It should be stressed that this new rubric is not intended to restrict student choice. Students, for example, will remain free to choose their three essays from three different sections of the paper. But the lecture course, and the tutorial teaching, will be designed to ensure that each student who wishes to do so is able to concentrate their studies on the two sections of the paper which interest them most.
This paper is one of the more popular General History options. In recent years the literature on many of these topics has improved significantly and the period has become an especially stimulating one for study at undergraduate level. The publication of new sources on the Cold War and Eastern Europe, in particular, has led to the appearance of a great deal of interesting material. The course can be taken by those who will do no further work in twentieth-century history, and by those who wish to concentrate on the period, combining it with History of the British Isles VII (since 1900), or using it as a foundation for ‘Further Subjects’ in non-European twentieth-century history.