World War I in Modern European Culture

Dr. Joseph F. Byrnes

528 Life Sciences West, 744-8191 


Hughes, Matthew and William J. Philpott, The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of the First World War.  New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2005.  (Each week, the relevant maps [M plus number] are indicated.)

Lyons, Michael J.  World War I: A Short History.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall,  2000.

OSU Department of History, Reading Yesterday, Writing Today: A Student Guide to the Study of History at Oklahoma State University (2006).

Shevin-Coetzee, Marilyn and Frans Coetzee.  World War I & European Society: A Sourcebook.  Lexington, MS: D. C. Heath, 1995.

Williamson, Samuel R. And Russel Van Wyk, July 1914: Soldiers, Statesmen, and the Coming of the Great War–A Brief Documentary History.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.

(The several items on reserve will be useful backups for certain class presentations and will be noted at the proper time; there will also be several handouts during the semester).

Course Objectives:

            1.  Evaluation of the causes of the war, manifest and underlying.  Development of principles for such an evaluation.

            2.  Exploration of the military strategy with special attention to the relationship of the front to society "at home."

            3.  Comprehension of the individual/social psychological and physical experience of the war through study of personal documents.

            4.  Analysis of the cultural effects of the war on twentieth-century Europe.

            5.  (A full set of directions/reflections on the study of History can be found in Reading Yesterday, Writing Today).

In sum: the war is studied as the principal event determining the course of twentieth-century European history.  Interpretations of causes and results are elaborated through discussion of principal events and key personalities; wartime experiences are explored through the testimony of eyewitnesses and contemporary literary expression; battles are analyzed against a background of home-front societies and economies.

Directives for Class Participation

            1.  On principle, everyone is expected to actively participate in the class and to respond when reflective response is invited.

            2.  Lectures, based on the text book,  will be supplemented with a PowerPoint presentation–outline, maps, slides--and documentary film footage.  Clear, complete, and refined note-taking is strongly encouraged, even for the film documentation.

            3.  Students are required to carefully read the basic text (Lyons) and study its maps.  Assigned supplementary readings from July 1914 (Williamson and Van Wyk) and the source book (Coetzee and Coetzee) must be summarized and analyzed in preparation for class discussion, and then submitted following the discussion.  A  final version of this outline and analysis will be submitted at the end of the semester; it will be accompanied by a concise (10+  pages) term paper expanding the issues/problems encountered in one or more of the semester’s assigned readings--the whole to reflect the experience of studying Reading Yesterday, Writing Today.

Schedule of Class Sessions and Readings: week of--

Jan. 8                         

Europe before 1914; great powers and the growth of tension; the explosive Balkans.

Jan. 15                       

July crisis and the outbreak of war.

Readings from July 1914 (Jan. 18).  Intro. (1), Chap. 1 (9), Habsburg ultimatum/Serbian response (36/39), Chap. 3 (43), Minutes of the Common Ministerial Council (63/66), Chap. 4 (73), Von Bernhardi (80), Bethmann-Holweg (92), Chap. 5 (110), Paléologue (129/144), Russian Ministry (141), Chap. 6 (149), Chap. 7 (181), Joffre (190), Poincaré (199), Massimy (203), Chap. 8 (218), H. Wilson (250).

Jan. 22                       

War plans and short war illusion; deadlock on the western front.  M4

Readings from World War I & European Society (Jan. 25).  Mood of 1914: On the way to the front (15), Hussars on the march (21), Britain’s destiny and duty (25), manifesto of German university professors (26).  Accommodation to military service: German students’ letters (38), a French historian remembers (45).  Reserve book: Zuber (selections).

Jan. 29                       

Deadlock on the eastern front; western front and Gallipoli.  M5, M7, M15, M18, M17

Readings from WWI&ES (Feb. 1).  Varieties of war: First gas attack (74), adventures of U-202 (77), shell shock (183).

Feb. 5                         

TEST I (Feb. 6)

Stalemate in South and disaster in the East.  M20, M19, M21, M22           

Feb. 12                       

Verdun and the Somme.  M25, M27, M28

Readings from WWI&ES (Feb. 15).  Religion and nationalism: Sacred Union and French Catholicism (105), A British clergyman at the front (110), spiritual consciousness (119), Russian Jews demand end to discrimination (121).

Discussion of term paper structure and topics

Feb. 19                       

Attrition in South and East; sea and air war.  M38, (M21), (M22), M26, M29, M30

Feb. 26                       

The war outside Europe.  M11, M12, M34, M35

Mar. 5                         

War aims and total war; home fronts.

Readings from WWI&ES (Mar. 8).  Economic mobilization [Standards of living]: no meat in Berlin (141), workers’ diets (144). New role of women (160).  Expansion of the state: war and British liberties (198), Germany’s government at war (201), Russian education (215).

First draft of term paper due (Mar. 9)      

Mar. 12                       

The Russian revolutions.  M31

TEST II (Mar. 15)                    

Mar. 26                       

Readings from WWI&ES (Mar. 29). Russian revolution: Prince Lvov on Russia’s opportunities and difficulties (212), revolution at the front (294).  Dissent, mutiny, revolution: French mutinies (252), conscientious objection  in Britain (264), mutiny in the German fleet. 

 America enters the war; crisis for the allies. M44, M32, M33, M36, M39

Apr. 2                          

1918: Germany’s last bid for victory; collapse of the central powers.  M42, M43, M45

Apr. 9                          

Postwar settlement. M47, M48, M16

Reserve book: Macmillan (selections).  Reserve book: Boemeke, Feldman, Glaser (selections).

Apr. 16                        

World War I in European Culture.

Readings from WWI&ES (Nov. 25) Part IV: The Aesthetic War (299-352: introductory material and selections). 

Reserve chapter: Winter.  Reserve book: Fussell (selections).

Apr. 23                        

Aftermath: World War I and the twentieth century.

Reserve article: Gopnik

Apr. 30                        

FINAL TEST (May 1, 2:00-3:50)

Final draft of term paper due on day of exam