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Europe East and West, 1945-1995 - 30 credits (HS1775)

Module Tutor: Dr Gerwin Ströbl

Course Description

The course examines the history of post-war Europe, beginning with Allied plans and disagreements about governance in Germany and Eastern Europe. The Berlin crisis, the division of Germany and the creation of the European Economic Union complete the foundations of the post-war order in Europe. The term ends with an analysis of the changing stature in the era of decolonisation of Europe’s two remaining great powers, Britain and France, and the first crises within the Soviet Empire. The second term covers various challenges to the established order in Europe, beginning with the fall of authoritarian regimes in Southern Europe, the events of 1968, and the re-igniting of regional conflicts in Western Europe. It then considers the attempts to lessen the impact of European division through Ostpolitik and détente, which leads to an examination of the factors for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Empire. The course concludes with the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia and its implications for today’s Europe.

Credits: 30

Availability of module: Every year


Necessary for

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues. The syllabus is divided into a series of major course themes, then sub-divided into principal topics for the study of each theme.

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 1000 word assessed essay [15%], one 2000 word assessed essay [35%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:

Assessed Essay 1 will contribute 15% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 1,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

Assessed Essay 2 will contribute 35% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

The course will cover a wide range of topics including:
Disintegration of the wartime aliance
Establishment of Communist rule in East Central Europe
The effects of decolonisation
Challenges to the post-war order
The collapse of Communism
The break-up of Yugoslavia

Learning outcomes

  • demonstrate a detailed knowledge of Cold War and post-reunification Europe
  • analyse selected topics such as Containment, Westintegration, and détente in the light of that understanding
  • identify strengths, weaknesses, problems of relevant historical interpretations
  • compare the relative merits of alternative views and interpretations
  • demonstrate an understanding of some of the primary sources

Skills that will be practised and developed:

  • communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
  • formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence
  • an ability to modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • an  ability to think critically and challenge assumptions
  • an ability to use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • time management skills and an ability to independently to organise their own study methods and workload.
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.

Suggested book purchases


Suggested preparatory reading

R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century – and After. London 1997.
Norman Davies, Europe: A History. Oxford 1997.
Paul G. Lewis, Central Europe since 1945. London 1994.
Mark Mazower, The Dark Continent. London 1999.
Z.A.B. Zeman, The Making and Breaking of Communist Europe. Oxford 1991