Doing history is actually not really about learning facts: it’s about learning how to find out about the past, even when all you have left of it is a confusing drawing and a handful of handwritten letters. Interested? The aim of this course is to learn to analyse historical documents, to think about historical problems, to understand concepts historically, and to help you find out what you like, if you like history! You will also learn crucial transferable skills, like how to critically analyze news sources or think creatively.
To learn to do all these things, this course will cover core topics and historical debates surrounding the First World War. We will study causality, gender history, military history, social history and the history of colonization through the lens of texts and photographs. We will try to reconstruct the answers to basic though crucial questions: What? Who? How? Why? What if? And so what?
– What does war look like when it’s fought in the 1910s? How do soldiers communicate without walkie-talkies? How do they feel when they realize gas can kill and modern flame-throwers can burn them alive?
– Who should bear the brunt of responsibility for starting the First ‘World‘ War? Who started the arms race to begin with? Was Germany simply desperate for recognition, or is there more to the play of alliances than first meets the eye?
– How did women’s lives change after 1914? How do young women feel when they step into an arms factory for the first time? How do they feel being sent back home again and living with mutilated men and PTSD victims? How does war reshape ideals of masculinity?
– Why did colonial subjects sign up to fight other people’s war? What is it like to see mainland Europe for the first time? How are colonial soldiers treated once they’re stationed?
– Is there some good in the bad? How did the Great War transform our knowledge of medicine and psychology? How did Europe keep its armies healthy enough to withstand unprecendented levels of violence?
– What if Gavrilo Princip hadn’t shot Franz Ferdinand in June 1914? How did the First World War affect Europe? How can this event shape how we think and write about human history?
This course might be of interest to you if you want to learn more about the First World War, if you want to explore themes and perspectives rarely mentioned in history manuals, or if you want to develop the skills you’ll undoubtedly need to navigate our post-truth world. There is no prerequisite to take part!
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