Farewells to Arms? War in Modern European History, 1815-2015 (HI178) – Year 1

In the early twenty-first century, many commentators argue that European societies have broken politically, military, and culturally with a past long shaped by wars and military conflicts. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ensuing transatlantic dispute, many US conservative commentators argued with Robert Kagan that “Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus” (Of paradise and power. America and Europe in the New World Order, 2003). In this view, Europeans would now be both both unwilling and incapable of using war and military power to ensure their security. More recently, historian James Sheehan invited us to rethink modern European history as the painful, cruel, and costly process whereby European societies redefined their relationship to war as an instrument of policy (Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe, 2008). These debates, like the history of warfare, raise a series of ethical, political, and intellectual issues of continuing import and relevance.

This team-taught 30 CATS first-year option module will introduce students to the history of war and conflicts in modern European history from 1815 to 2015. It will consider how war, its conduct and experience, shaped states and societies in Europe. It will also investigate how the transformations of warfare reflected the evolutions of European societies.

The lectures will provide a brief outline of the military conflicts that shaped the experience of Europeans throughout the period. Most importantly however, in conjunction with weekly seminar discussions, they will help students understand how wars affected – and were transformed by – political ideologies and regimes, cultures, understandings of race and gender, economic systems and international relations and institutions.