An Introduction to 20th century History

Ref: C2420823

The 'short' C20th began with the catastrophe of the Great War and ended with the collapse of the Communist Empire in the early 1990s. Between these two great watersheds was an era of unremitting struggle between competing ideologies. By 1945 Fascism had been defeated although combinations of populism and extreme nationalism make it a latent threat. The competition between Liberal Democracy and Communism then led to the Cold War which appeared to have ended with the collapse of the Soviet system. Again, recent events suggest a continuing threat to democracy and the smaller states of Eastern Europe from the successor state in Russia. Great events, larger than life personalities and continuing social change make this a rewarding period to study and to inform understanding of our own era.

Course aim

This course will introduce key themes and events from twentieth century history to provide an overall appreciation and basis for further courses or reading.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the main events of C20th history.
  • Understand the linkage between those events and the competition between the competing ideologies of Liberal Democracy, Fascism and Communism.
  • Describe how the events of the last century continue to impact on the world we live in.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • There will be ten input sessions including opportunities for discussion and questions. Week 11 will be run as a seminar with small, facilitated groups discussing key issues from the period, followed by feedback in plenary session.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • For anyone minded to undertake some pre-course reading, options include Dark Continent by Mark Mazower, A history in fragments by Richard Vinen and The Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm.

What can I do next?

Download full course information sheet

An Introduction to 20th century History


This course is funded by the Greater London Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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