The Evolution of the International System, 1815-1954

Spring 2012

HIEU 3752

The Evolution of the International System, 1815-1954

Stephen A. Schuker

This course traces the evolution of great-power politics from the post-Napoleonic peace settlement in 1815 to the Russo-American Cold War in the 1950s.  Readings and lectures will first scrutinize developments in the European state system of the 19th century, when Europe remained the locus of world power, and will expand to include the United States, Japan, and other extra-European nations as those nations gained weight in the international system.  The course begins with a discussion of how demographic, agricultural, and industrial development influenced transnational relationships.  It then covers the systems of Metternich and Bismarck, the "springtime of the peoples" in 1848 and role of nationalism in transforming the map of Europe, the significance of the "Eastern Question," Continental and overseas imperialism, the causes and consequences of the two world wars, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, and preliminary steps toward European recovery and economic unity.  Twentieth-century topics will accord due weight to the growing importance of finance and economics in determining diplomatic outcomes, as well as to the role of technology in changing the nature of warfare.

The class will meet for one-and-one quarter hour lectures twice a week.  Students will be provided with both a basic reading list and suggestions for further reading on each topic.  Students will be asked to write a short but polished bibliographical essay on some major topic covered during the term, as well as to take a three-hour final exam.  An optional midterm will be offered if sufficient student demand develops.

 There are no formal prerequisites, but familiarity with the basic outlines of European, American, or world history in the nineteenth and twentieth century will prove helpful.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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