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The Reconstruction of Europe, 1945-1950 (level 5)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Professor Jessica Reinisch
  • Assessment: two assignments (50%) and a three-hour examination (50%), with a 60% attendance requirement

Module description

Since the end of the Cold War, the period after the Second World War (the bloodiest in history) has come back into view as a time of flux, when European countries, which emerged physically and morally devastated, began to rebuild themselves. How could this reconstruction proceed so dramatically and, by some measures, successfully? This course studies the idea of ‘reconstruction’ after war in the context of the ‘short’ twentieth century. In the first term we will focus on the enormous challenges facing Europeans and European states in the years immediately after 1945, and compare them with earlier periods of upheaval and reconstruction, particularly after 1919. Sessions in the second term will consider the broader trajectories of European states attempting to reinvent and reconfigure themselves in the course of the 1950s and 1960s. The course will bring together the histories of eastern, western, northern and southern Europe, usually still often told in isolation. At the same time, we will consider how Europe’s composition, borders, location and identity were themselves sources of conflict and debate. Readings will introduce students to perspectives from social and political history, and will be supplemented throughout with primary sources - including films, music and novels - from the period.