20th-Century Europe

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Much anxiety about the future haunts Europe today, as problems range from a declining birth rate to the debt crisis in the continent’s southern tier. Yet Europe has shown its resiliency repeatedly in the past and remains a formidable political and economic presence in the international community. This course will attempt to take a fresh look at the past 100 years, focusing on leading personalities, events, and movements in various locales. Major topics include the advent of World War I, the rise and development of communism in Russia and fascism in Italy and Germany, the impact of World War II, the reconstruction of Western Europe after 1945, the collapse and aftermath of the Soviet empire, and the emergence of the European Union. To achieve as full an understanding as possible, the course will rely not just on historical narrative but also on autobiography, biography, psychology, art and architecture, literature, and film. Group conferences, based on a seminar format, will feature important works by Robert Graves, Rosa Luxemburg, V. I. Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Ignazio Silone, Leni Riefenstahl, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Hannah Arendt, and Milan Kundera.