Fall 2015 -- History 224 -- Professor Patch

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Interest in international relations declined in America after the end of the Cold War, because no major threat to national security was perceived from abroad, and some experts predicted the end of significant international conflict. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil war in Syria, and bloody conflicts in Africa have reminded us, however, that it remains vitally important to study the causes of international conflict and the most successful strategies for conflict resolution.  In this course we will analyze the great issues of war and peace in the twentieth century---the causes of the First World War, fierce debate over peacemaking strategies in 1919, the international tensions caused by the Great Depression, the attempts to "appease" Hitler by the Western democracies and the outbreak of the Second World War, the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel, the resolution of conflicts within Europe through the formation of NATO and the European Union, the dissolution of European colonial empires in Africa and Asia, the history of the Cold War, and the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1956.  We will investigate which of the following models best explains international conflict, and what strategies are best suited to prevent each type of conflict:

    1. Wars of aggression, resulting from the belief by at least one actor in the international system that it can benefit from war and has a good chance to win.
    2. Conflict resulting from a "spiral of tensions," i.e., a tragic misunderstanding between governments that think they are acting defensively, but whose actions are perceived as threatening by others.
    3. "Just wars" to redress an intolerable grievance (to end "tyranny", for example, or achieve "national liberation" from foreign rulers).
    4. Preemptive wars, when the country that initiates fighting has good reason to believe that an enemy will attack it as soon as its preparations are complete.

     To earn credit for History 224 you must complete the following assignments:

  1. Participate in a panel presentation on the causes of the First World War (your panel will be given a collective grade worth 10% of your final grade).
  2. To develop your ability to analyze a scholarly argument, you must write a five-page essay (1500-1800 words) on Harold Nicolson's Peacemaking 1919, due by October 5 and worth 15% your final grade.  Why does Nicolson blame "public opinion" for the worst defects in the Treaty of Versailles?  What proposals does he advance to insulate foreign policy from public opinion?  Are those proposals compatible with democracy? 
  3. You must synthesize information from class lectures and different readings to analyze trends in international relations in a mid-term and final examination, accounting for 15% and 30% of your final grade. You are welcome to consult one page of notes (two-sided) while taking each exam.
  4. To analyze an important scholarly debate of special interest to you, you must write a ten-page term paper based on the study of at least two scholarly works with contrasting viewpoints in addition to our required readings (accounting for 30% of your final grade).  Your objective is NOT to tell the story of "what really happened," but to identify the most important disagreements between scholars, and explain which author succeeds best at presenting evidence and logic to support his or her conclusions.  You must submit a one-paragraph description of your topic and a reading list by October 14, and then begin your research; you should be well into your second book by Thanksgiving. You are strongly encouraged to send me a first draft by December 4, and final drafts are due by 5:00 p.m. on December 11. You are welcome to incorporate any material from our required readings that is relevant to your topic. Remember to CITE A SPECIFIC SOURCE, with page numbers, for every direct quotation, every paraphrase or summary of someone else’s words, and every little known fact. Make it clear exactly how you know whatever it is that you claim to know about history. PAPERS THAT DO NOT CITE SPECIFIC SOURCES (with page numbers) ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE!

     A list of required readings (available in the University Bookstore and on reserve in Leyburn Library) and a schedule of class meetings follow:

  • James Joll and Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War, 3rd edn (Routledge, 2007).
  • Harold Nicolson, Peacemaking 1919 (Simon Publications reprint, 2001; first published in 1933).
  • Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (Columbia, 1997).
  • P.M.H. Bell, The Origins of the Second World War in Europe (Longman, 3rd edition, 2007).
  • John Springhall, Decolonization since 1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).
  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (Penguin, 2006).


Sep 11

Lecture on "idealist" and "realist" approaches to international relations (Kant vs. Metternich).

Sep 14

The July Crisis of 1914.

DISCUSS Origins of the First World War, chaps 1-2.

Sep 16

The emergence of the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente.

Discuss Origins of the First World War, chaps 3-4.

Sep 18

Successful crisis management in the years 1908-1913.

Discuss First World War, chaps 5-6

Sep 21

Why did diplomacy fail in 1914?

Discuss First World War, chaps 7-8. Divide into five teams by the end of class to investigate the sins of omission and commission by the leaders of France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and Russia in the events leading directly to the outbreak of the Great War. Meet with your panel before class on Wednesday to go over our Xeroxed documents that highlight your government’s decisions.

Sep 23*

PANEL PRESENTATIONS by our five national focus groups. Each panel gets ten minutes to present an argument about the role of its government. Panels may elect a spokesperson or share speaking duties, but everyone on the panel will get the same grade, so make sure your team’s research is solid even if you are not the spokesperson. The whole class will vote at the end of the discussion about how to rank the "Great Powers" from most responsible to least responsible for the outbreak of war.

Sep 25

Lecture on the ordeal of "Total War."

Start reading Harold Nicolson.

Sep 28

The collision at Versailles between the American and French strategies for peacemaking.

Discuss Peacemaking 1919, chaps 1-4.

Sep 30

Successes and failures of the Versailles Conference.

Discuss Peacemaking 1919, chaps 5-8.

Oct 2

NO CLASS (professor attending scholarly conference).

Oct 5*

Lecture on the impact of the First World War on Europe’s colonial empires.

FIVE-PAGE ESSAY ON NICOLSON (1500-1800 words) DUE BY THE BEGINNING OF CLASS. Why does Nicolson blame "public opinion" for the worst defects in the Treaty of Versailles? What proposals does he advance to insulate foreign policy from the vagaries of public opinion? Are those proposals compatible with democracy?

Oct 7

When (if ever) did Palestinians become a "nation"?

Discuss Rashid Khalidi, chaps 1-3.

Oct 9

Tensions between Palestinians and Jewish settlers on the eve of the Great War.

Discuss Khalidi, chaps 4-5.

Oct 12

The impact of the British conquest of Palestine.

Discuss Khalidi, chaps 6-7.

Oct 14*

Discuss Khalidi, chap. 8 and documents on British Palestine.

TERM PAPER PROSPECTUS DUE BY 5:00 P.M. Send me a one-page description of the topic you intend to investigate and a reading list with at least two works not required for this course.

Oct 19

Supporters and opponents of the Versailles order in Europe.

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, Origins of the Second World War, chaps 1-4.

Oct 21

The Communist International and rise of fascism.

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, chaps 5, 6, 8.

Oct 23

The impact of the Great Depression on international relations.

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, chaps 7, 9, 13.

Oct 26*


Oct 28

From a "postwar" to a "prewar" period.

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, chaps 10-12.

Oct 30

"Appeasement" and the outbreak of war.

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, chaps 14-15, and xeroxed debate between Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill.

Nov 2

From the invasion of Poland to a "World War."

Discuss P.M.H. Bell, chaps 16-17.

Nov 4

The Holocaust as a problem in international relations.

Discuss xeroxed documents and Richard Breitman, "The Allied War Effort and the Jews, 1942/43" (available on J-STOR).

Nov 6

Planning for a postwar order at Yalta and Potsdam.

Discuss John Lewis Gaddis, pp. 1-27, and xeroxed documents.

Nov 9

The origins of the Cold War. Was there a clear case in 1948/49 that Soviet aggression must be deterred, or were there a series of tragic misunderstandings?

Discuss John Lewis Gaddis, pp. 27-46, and xeroxed documents.

Nov 11

Lecture on the revival of Western Europe.

(Keep reading Gaddis.)

Nov 13

The climax of the Cold War in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Discuss Gaddis, chaps 2-4.

Nov 16

The strange history of detente.

Discuss Gaddis, chaps 5-6.

Nov 18

What explains the collapse of Soviet Communism?

Discuss Gaddis, chapter 7 and epilogue.

Nov 20

Lecture on decolonization in India and the Middle East.

Start reading John Springhall.


Nov 30

Rival theories to explain decolonization.

Discuss John Springhall, chaps 1-4.

Dec 2

Why did decolonization in Africa sometimes result in bloody conflict?

Discuss Springhall, chaps 5-6.

Dec 4*

What can we conclude about the causes and consequences of decolonization?

Discuss Springhall, chaps 7-8.


Dec 7

Lecture on the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 and the development of Palestinian radicalism.

Dec 9

Discuss documents on the Clinton Plan for peace in the Mideast in 2000.

Dec 11*

Discuss documents on the civil war in Syria. What advice would you offer to John Kerry?