The Tragedy of the Great War - Causes, Consequences and Contrasting Centenaries
Although the Great War’s consequences are indisputable, its origins remain contentious. Re-evaluating each country’s role in the crisis, this course traces the political, social and economic causes of the conflict. Given the war’s contrasting memories and national narratives we will also ask, should we commemorate without reproach.
Re-assessing each country's accountability and using the stories of individuals, this course will discuss the long and short-term causes of the conflict, concluding with how the centenary is remembered in Britain, France and Germany.
Who is the course for?
What topics will this course cover
• Setting the scene – Pre-war Europe’s political, military and social situation; Reasons for Germany’s rise to power; The Kaiser's paranoia or the Entente’s intentional isolation? ; The repercussions of the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand; The fallout from the Fischer Debate and reactions to German war-guilt ; Political, economic and psychological legacies of the war ; Why is Germany’s remembrance culture problematic and Europe’s contrasting centenaries
What will it be like?
WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.
By the end of the course I should be able to:
1. identify the main long term key political, economic and cultural preconditions, along with the short term causes leading to war in 1914 2. express an informed opinion as to whether war was inevitable or avoidable by early 1914 3. re-examine the origins of German aggression and concomitant guilt 4. discuss which country was most accountable for the outbreak of war 5. explain some of the war’s consequences, such as Germany’s divergent remembrance culture
How will I know I'm making progress?
Whilst there is no formal assessment, students will be encouraged to read around the forthcoming themes in order to contribute to the weekly group discussions. Discussion, question and answer and tutor feedback will also support the recognition of progress being made. Some sessions will end with a short quiz to enable students to check that they have understood key points.
What else do I need to know, do or bring?
A reading list will be provided by the tutor at the beginning of the course. It is not essential to read the texts. Handouts will be provided Students may also find it useful to bring a notebook and pen.
Reading and information sources
Although optional, any of the texts recommended by the tutor would enhance the weekly group discussions and participants' personal development
What could the course lead to?
Students could enhance their independent research skills through consulting local archives, such as the Derbyshire Records Office concerning Derby, or their home city, during the July Crisis and engage in community centennial commemorative projects. Progression may also be realised by further investigation of the background to Britain's decision for war and how resentment and failure of the Versailles Treaty to establish a definitive peace led to the Second World War, perhaps by way of my proposed course on the Origins and Legacies of World War II.