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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3999 Doomed to Failure? European Great Power Politics from Bismarck to the Outbreak of World War I

20 creditsClass Size: 28

Module manager: Professor Holger Afflerbach

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces

HIST3810 and HIST3820

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

George F. Kennan called World War I the 'seminal catastrophe' of the 20th century. And actual historiography agrees that he was right: World War I was indeed the starting point for most evils of the 20th century: National Socialism, Fascism, Communism, and, naturally, World War II., wouldn't have been possible without the 'Great War'. - But how was this catastrophe linked with the developments of the 19th century? - Was this war the logical outcome of a highly militarized, imperialistic and nationalistic epoch, so that the Sarajevo Crime was only the proverbial spark in the powder barrel of European politics? In this class we will try to analyze and to understand the mechanisms of European Great Power politics between 1871 and 1914. We will examine some general tendencies and political problems of the times. We will try to understand how the politicians of the time tried to be in control of events. And we will deal with the peace keeping mechanisms of the European Concert of Powers as well as with the major events of international policy from 1871 to 1914, from the foundations of the German and Italian National States to the July crisis of 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. understand the driving forces and central problems of European Great Power Politics from Bismarck to the Outbreak of World War I
2. explain the causes and links between this period and the outbreak of the war
3. evaluate the importance of imperialistic and colonialist tendencies in European politics before 1914
4. understand the attitude towards war and peace in European politics before 1914
5. have an overview on some major historiographical debates on key aspects of the topic.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will acquire the ability to:

1. analyse and interpret the foundations and structural elements of Great Power politics before 1914
2. analyse and critique relevant historiographical argument
3. apply relevant written, visual, and electronic resources
4. present, in writing and orally, well-supported historical arguments.


The following topics are to be covered in seminars:

1. Structural elements of European Great Power Politics
2. Bismarck's Alliance Politics
3. European Imperialism and the
4. Public Opinion and Great Power Politics
5. Decisions for war in 1914.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Private study consists primarily of directed reading as set out in the module handbook. Students undertake this reading in order to:

1. prepare for each seminar.
2. research their written and oral presentation in class.
3. equip themselves for answering the exam questions.

Private study also includes the writing of VLE Blackboard pieces in advance of five classes, the planning and writing of the assessed essay, and revision for the exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contributions to class discussions, essay feedback, short assessments during the semester.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Presentation15 minute classroom presentation of a book review and a thematic topi20.00
Written Workwritten contribution to be submitted on Minerva prior to the relevant seminar at which the presentation is given, consisting of one 1000 word script and one 500 word book review20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/05/2022 13:36:32


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