Fall 2015 -- History 224 -- Professor Patch

Home Up Syllabus Slideshows


SAMPLE TERM PAPER TOPICS

AND SUGGESTED READINGS

 

  1. The Psychological Consequences of Trench Warfare.

  2. Soviet Foreign Policy and the Comintern.

  3. The Versailles Conference.

  4. The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

  5. Did the Versailles Treaty Cause the Great Depression?

  6. The Crumbling of the Versailles Order, 1932-36.

  7. Appeasement and the Outbreak of the Second World War.

  8. Primary Sources on Appeasement and the Outbreak of the Second World War.

  9. Why Did Germany Invade the Soviet Union in June 1941?

  10. The Anglo-American Response to the Holocaust.

  11. The Vatican and the Third Reich

  12. The Origins of the Cold War.

  13. Decolonization.

  14. The Nuremberg Trial and Human Rights.

  15. The Revival of Democracy in Western Europe after 1945.

 

I. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF TRENCH WARFARE.  Compare and contrast at least two of the following attempts to analyze the impact of the combat experience on European culture and politics in the 1920s:

  • Brian Bond, The Unquiet Western Front: Britain's Role in Literature and History (2002)--a rebuttal of Fussell's argument, emphasizing the influence of patriotic accounts of the Great War.

  • Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (1989)–penetrating analysis of the writings of German, British, and French soldiers in the trenches, combined with a more speculative argument about the links between the avant-garde spirit in the arts and Nazism.

  • Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)--a brilliant synthesis of literary criticism and cultural history, which argues that anti-war memoirs, autobiographical novels, and poetry transformed the very language we speak today.

  • Robert Wohl, The Generation of 1914 (1979)--a brilliant comparative history of the impact of the war on educated young men in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

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II. SOVIET FOREIGN POLICY AND THE COMINTERN.   Why did the Western powers intervene half-heartedly in the Russian Civil War?  What impact did the rise of the Soviet regime and the founding of the Comintern have on international relations?  Compare the interpretation of P.M.H. Bell with two of the following:

  • Jonathan Haslam, The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 1933-39 (London, 1984)-- makes for an interesting comparison with Kennan.

  • George Kennan, Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin (London, 1961) --how well does this book, which clarifies central assumptions of the U.S. policy of containment after 1945, hold up in the light of recent research?

  • Arno Mayer, The Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking (1967) --vigorous indictment of the "counter-revolutionary" strategy of the Western powers in 1919.

  • Robert Tucker, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (New York, 1990) --careful analysis of the interaction between foreign and domestic policy.

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III. THE VERSAILLES CONFERENCE.  Where did Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic effort to make the world “safe for democracy” go wrong?  Compare the arguments of Harold Nicolson with two of the following:

  • Lloyd Gardner, Safe for Democracy: The Anglo-American Response to Revolution, 1913-1923 (1984)--places the Versailles Conference in the context of efforts to respond to anti-western revolutions in Mexico, China, and Russia.

  • Thomas Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (1992)--perhaps the most vigorous scholarly defense of Wilson's foreign policy record.

  • Sally Marks, The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe, 1918-1933 (1976)–analyzes the failure of the Versailles Treaty to gain general acceptance in Europe.

  • Alan Sharp, The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris, 1919 (1991)–succinct and comprehensive, the best overview of the conference.

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IV. THE ORIGINS OF THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT.  The issues raised by Rashid Khalidi can be explored further either with reference to British Imperial policy in the Middle East, a comparison of Palestinian nationalism with Zionism, or study of the founding of the state of Israel.  Compare Khalidi with two of the following:

  • David Fromkin, A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (1989)--incisive analysis of the blunders made by the British and French governments when they decided to extend their colonial empires at Turkey’s expense.

  • Baruch Kimmerling & Joel Migdal, The Palestinian People: A History (2003)--compare this account, co-authored by an Israeli and an American historian, with that of Khalidi.

  • Dan Kurzman, Genesis 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War (1970)–a journalist’s painstaking investigation of claims and counter-claims about atrocities.

  • Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism (1972)–perhaps the most balanced and authoritative treatment of the topic.

  • William Roger Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism (1984)--should be read in conjunction either with Fromkin or Segev.

  • Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (1999)--makes for a good comparison with Fromkin.

  • Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust (1993)–thought-provoking analysis of the ways in which the Holocaust influenced the founding of the state of Israel.

  • Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis (1986).

  • Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2000)--perhaps the best analysis of Arab-Israeli relations from 1947 to 1998.

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V. DID THE VERSAILLES TREATY CAUSE THE GREAT DEPRESSION?  When the Great Depression struck in 1929/30, many observers hailed John Maynard Keynes as a great prophet and assumed that the blunders of the Versailles Conference had played a crucial role in causing this disaster; the Nazis in particular blamed all of Germany's economic problems on Versailles.  How well does this view hold up in the light of the best research by economic historians?  Compare the arguments of two of the following:

  • Derek Aldcroft, From Versailles to Wall Street, 1919-1929 (1977)--probing analysis of the impact of war reparations and war debts on international trade and investment.

  • Harold James, The German Slump: Politics and Economics 1924-1936 (Oxford, 1986)--perhaps the best analysis of the question of why the depression was especially severe in Germany.

  • Bruce Kent, The Spoils of War: The Politics, Economics, and Diplomacy of Reparations (Oxford, 1989)--the best analysis of the diplomatic wrangle over abolishing war reparations in 1931/32.

  • Charles Kindleberger, The World in Depression, 1929-1939, 2nd edn (Berkeley, 1986)--the most comprehensive analysis of the worldwide economic crisis.

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VI. THE CRUMBLING OF THE VERSAILLES ORDER, 1932-36.  Why did Great Britain and the USA choose not to support the efforts by France to uphold the Treaty of Versailles in the depths of the Great Depression?  Why did the Western democracies fail to oppose German rearmament, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, the remilitarization of the Rhineland, or the intervention by Italy and Germany in the Spanish Civil War?  (Feel free to concentrate on of of these three issues.)  Compare the arguments by P.M.H. Bell with two of the following:

  • G.W. Baer, Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia and the League of Nations (Stanford, 1977).

  • Edward W. Bennett, German Rearmament and the West, 1932-1933 (Princeton, 1979)--excellent analysis of how Hitler was able to exploit divisions among the Western democracies at the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

  • Tom Buchanan, Britain and the Spanish Civil War (Cambridge, 1997).

  • Paul Preston, The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge, revised edition (New York, 2006)--incisive analysis of both the conflict in Spain and the adoption by the Western democracies of a policy of nonintervention that doomed the Spanish Republic.

  • Christopher Thorne, The Limits of Foreign Policy: The West, the League and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1931-1933 (New York, 1972)--analyzes the dismal failure of the League of Nations to respond in any way to Japan's blatant aggression against China.

  • Piotr Wandycz, The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances, 1926-1936 (Princeton, 1988).

  • Gerhard Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Diplomatic Revolution in Europe, 1933-1936 (Chicago, 1970).

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VII. APPEASEMENT AND THE OUTBREAK OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.  Was Neville Chamberlain's attempt to "appease" Hitler rational based on what was known about the Third Reich in 1937/38?  Why did that policy fail?  Compare the arguments of P.M.H. Bell with two of the following:

  • Donald Cameron Watt, How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-39 (New York, 1989)--the most comprehensive analysis of European diplomacy from the Munich Conference until the German invasion of Poland.

  • John Charmley, Chamberlain and the Lost Peace (London, 1989).

  • Winston Churchill, The Second World War.  Volume 1: The Gathering Storm (London, 1948)--the classic indictment of appeasement by Chamberlain's sharpest critic within the Conservative Party.

  • Martin Gilbert, The Roots of Appeasement (New York, 1966)--classic analysis of the growing revulsion against the Treaty of Versailles in British public opinion in the 1930s.

  • Williamson Murray, The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938-39 (Princeton, 1984)--probing analysis of the arms race on the eve of the Second World War.

  • Telford Taylor, Munich: The Price of Peace (New York, 1979).

  • Gerhard Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Starting World War II (Chicago, 1980).

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VIII. PRIMARY SOURCES ON THE ORIGINS OF WORLD WAR II.  Choose any of the important incidents in diplomatic history from 1936 to 1941 discussed by P.M.H. Bell (e.g., the Munich Conference of September 1938), and test his analysis against your own reading of selected primary sources.  Our library contains the following valuable collections:

  • Great Britain.  Foreign Office: Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939 (65 volumes).

  • Germany.  Auswaertiges Amt: Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1933-1941 (19 volumes)—translated into English by the U.S. Government soon after the war.

  • International Military Tribunal: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (8 volumes of translated documents), and Trial of the Major War Criminals, Nuremberg 1945-46 (42 volumes of trial transcripts).  A rich source for diplomatic historians, because one of the central charges against the defendants at Nuremberg was that they had conspired to unleash a war of aggression in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  These collections are available both in hardcopy and electronic versions.

  • United States.  Department of State: Foreign Relations of the United States.

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IX. WHY DID GERMANY INVADE THE SOVIET UNION IN JUNE 1941?  P.M.H. Bell acknowledges that Hitler's earlier foreign policy decisions had a plausible rationale based on more or less traditional calculations about the German national interest, but he concludes that this crucial decision can only be explained as the consequence of Nazi racial ideology.  Compare his argument with that of at least two of the following:

  • Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Research Institute for Military History), ed., Germany and the Second World War.  Vol. IV: The Attack on the Soviet Union (Oxford, 1998) --thorough research by a team of German military historians.

  • Anthony Read and David Fisher, The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact, 1939-41 (New York, 1988) --well written and detailed narrative history of German-Soviet relations.  The first half of the book deals with the origins of the Hitler-Stalin Pact and is not as relevant to this topic as chapters 33-56.

  • Norman Rich, Hitler's War Aims.  Vol. I: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion (New York, 1973) --places more emphasis than Bell on pragmatic reasons to invade the USSR and later to declare war on the USA.

  • Bernd Wegner, ed., From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-41 (Providence, RI, 1997) --anthology of thought-provoking articles on a wide range of topics.  See especially nos. 1, 2, 5-7, 10, 11, 20, 21, & 27.

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X. ANGLO-AMERICAN RESPONSES TO THE HOLOCAUST.  When did the British and American governments learn that the Nazis were carrying out genocide in Eastern Europe?  Why did they decide not to publicize this fact or bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz?  Compare two of the following:

  • Shlomo Aronson, Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews (Cambridge, 2004): the most up-to-date analysis, by an Israeli scholar who includes consideration of the Zionist response.

  • Michael Cohen, Churchill and the Jews (London, 2003): a critical analysis of Churchill's decisions to subordinate rescue efforts to the task of winning the war.

  • Robert Dallek, Franklin Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 (New York, 1979): a sympathetic treatment of FDR's overall record in foreign policy.

  • Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (1992): a masterful, succinct distillation of a lifetime of research.

  • Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret (1981): pioneering analysis of why some foreign observers succeeded while many others failed to piece together by December 1942 that the Third Reich was seeking to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

  • Verne Newton, ed., FDR and the Holocaust (New York, 1996): excellent anthology with contributions by many experts in the field to discuss the charges raised by Wyman.

  • David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945 (1984): a sharp indictment of U.S. policy.

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XI. THE VATICAN AND THE THIRD REICH.  Why did the Vatican sign concordats with Mussolini and Hitler?  How did it respond to the Second World War and Holocaust?  Compare at least two of the following works on this highly controversial topic:

  • Gerhard Besier, The Holy See and Hitler's Germany (New York, 2007): analyzes the newly opened Vatican archives for the 1930s and argues that the Vatican systematically supported authoritarian and anti-modernist regimes (should be contrasted with Peter Godman).

  • Charles Gallagher, Vatican Secret Diplomacy: Joseph P. Hurley and Pope Pius XII (New Haven, 2008): fascinating biography of an American priest who played a key role as a Vatican diplomat at both the beginning and end of the Second World War.

  • Peter Godman, Hitler and the Vatican: Inside the Secret Archives that Reveal the New Story of the Nazis and the Church (New York, 2004): also focuses on the 1930s and arrives at conclusions somewhat more charitable than Besier's.

  • Peter Kent, The Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII: The Roman Catholic Church and the Division of Europe, 1943-1950 (Montreal, 2002): incisive analysis of the Vatican's long-term strategy for combatting the spread of Communism

  • Michael Phayer, Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War (Bloomington, 2008), which should be read in conjunction with his earlier book, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965 (Bloomington, 2000): highly critical analysis of "the silence of Pius XII."

  • Pierre Blet, S.J., Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican (New York, 1999): a defense of the pope's record by a very well informed Jesuit scholar, an editor of the Vatican's 12-volume published set of documents on the Second World War.

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XII. ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR.  Did U.S. policy-makers exaggerate the Soviet threat in 1947/48?  Compare the arguments by Gaddis with two of the following:

  • Carolyn Eisenberg, Drawing the Line: The American Decision To Divide Germany, 1944-1949 (1996).

  • Charles Maier, ed., The Cold War in Europe: Era of a Divided Continent, 2nd edition (1996)--see articles 2, 3, and 6-11 for views of U.S. policy that diverge from Gaddis.

  • Forrest Pogue, George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945-1959 (1987)--in-depth analysis of the most important U.S. foreign policy decisions of 1947/48, based largely on the Marshall Papers.

  • Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev (1996).

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XIII. DECOLONIZATION.  What explains the dissolution of Europe's colonial empires from 1945 to the 1960s?  To what extent did former colonies remain influenced by the legacy of imperialism despite the formal end of colonial rule?  Focus on either Africa or South Asia, and compare the analysis by John Springhall with at least two of the following:

  • J.P.D. Dunbabin, The Post-Imperial Age: The Great Powers and the Wider World (1994)--very broad in scope and somewhat more comprehensive and detailed than Springhall.

  • D.K. Fieldhouse, The West and the Third World: Trade, Colonialism, Dependence and Development (1999)–analyzes the debate over the extent to which today’s economic problems in Africa and southern Asia should be explained as the consequence of Imperialism.

  • Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy (2007)--highly detailed but also very readable analysis of the emergence of a stable democracy after 1947.

  • John Hargreaves, Decolonization in Africa, 2nd edn, (1996)–excellent overview of the continent from the 1920s to the 1960s.

  • Laurence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (New York, 1997)--very well written and detailed narrative history of the rise and fall of British rule; feel free to concentrate on the second half of the book.

  • Miles Kahler, Decolonization in Britain and France: The Domestic Consequences of International Relations (1984)–sophisticated analysis by a political scientist of the disintegration of the political consensus in favor of colonialism in Britain and France in the 1950s and the impact of decolonization on British and French politics.

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XIV. THE NUREMBERG TRIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS.  Did the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention against Genocide succeed at formulating clear, consistent, and enforceable definitions of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity"?  Analyze two or three of the following:

  • Robert Conot, Justice at Nuremberg (1983)–the most detailed narrative history.

  • Michael Marrus (ed.), The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, 1945-46: A Documentary History (1999)–useful collection of primary sources.

  • Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2002)--skillful analysis of American responses to genocide from the Armenian massacres during the First World War to "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo.

  • Bradley Smith, The Road to Nuremberg (1981)--careful analysis of the decision-making process whereby the Allies agreed on the trial procedure and terms of the indictment.

  • Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir (1992)–this history of the trial by a member of the American prosecution team helps to sort out the legal issues involved in drafting the indictment.

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XV. THE REVIVAL OF DEMOCRACY IN WESTERN EUROPE.  To what extent did the revival of parliamentary democracy in Western Europe after 1945 result from U.S. foreign policy and the Marshall Plan, and to what extent from a learning process by Europeans?  Compare the arguments of two of the following:

  • Francois Duchene, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence (1994)–excellent biography of the most important architect of the European Union.

  • Richard Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France: Renovation and Economic Management in the Twentieth Century (1981)--analyzes why Monnet and his colleagues in the French Fourth Republic succeeded so much better than officials of the Third Republic at promoting economic growth.

  • James Wilkinson, The Intellectual Resistance in Europe (1981)--analyzes the postwar political role of the most famous intellectuals who had resisted fascist regimes in Italy, Germany, and France.

  • Alan S. Milward, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945-51 (1984)--thoughtful analysis of the relative importance of Marshall Plan aid and indigenous European factors for explaining economic recovery.

  • Frederic Spotts and Theodor Wieser, Italy: A Difficult Democracy (1986).

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