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Option Courses

Option Courses

Students are required to select two options, normally one in Michaelmas Term and one in Lent Term. All options are taught as two-hour weekly discussion seminars over eight weeks and attendance is compulsory.

For each option, students will be required to write a 3–4,000 words essay which will count towards 10% of the overall mark.

Please note that this list of options changes from year to year and options may not run depending on demand and staff availability.  

At the discretion of the MPhil Director and Course Convener, students may be able to take options from the Faculty's other MPhil courses in place of an option on their home MPhil, or they may be able to audit additional classes.

Options 2018-19

Year of Revolt: 1968 in Europe (Dr Hanno Balz)

Ludwig Binder: Studentenrevolte 1967/68, West-Berlin; veröffentlicht vom Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik DeutschlandThis course will examine the dramatic events of 1968 in Europe – a year of social and political revolts, generational conflicts, and cultural activism – as well as their long-term consequences. The central focus of the course lies on Western Europe (France, West Germany, Italy) as well as on the theoretical, political and cultural backgrounds of the respective movements. The two-hour seminars will discuss primary and secondary texts as well as other sources and will also include student presentations on selected readings.

European Spring: New Perspectives on the 1848 Revolutions (Prof Christopher Clark)

Proclamation of the Wallachian constitution, June 27, 1848
In their combination of intensity and geographical extent, the 1848 revolutions were unique – at least in European history.  Neither the great French Revolution of 1789, nor the July Revolution of 1830, nor the Paris Commune of 1870, nor the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 sparked a comparable trans-continental cascade.  1989 looks like a better comparator, but there is still controversy as to whether these uprisings can be characterised as ‘revolutions’, and in any case their impact was limited to the Warsaw Pact states.  In 1848, by contrast, parallel political tumults broke out across the entire continent, from Switzerland and Portugal to Wallachia and Moldavia, from Norway and Sweden to Palermo.  This was the only truly European revolution that there has ever been.

This MPhil option revisits some of the central questions historians have asked about this continental upheaval: how do we account for the simultaneity of the revolts?  Why was their rapid ascendancy followed by such a swift and effective counter-revolution?  But we will also be looking at areas that are less well covered in the existing literature.  We will look closely at the forms of connectivity that made the cascade of revolutions possible.  The course will shift the focus of attention away from the classic theatres of revolt, such as Paris, Berlin, and Rome towards less well-known peripheral locations such as the Ionian Islands, Greece, and Wallachia and Moldavia (modern Romania).  We will examine the very substantial flows of refugees triggered by the unrest, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, and the new policing techniques used to pursue and observe them.  We will consider the impact of the revolutions on European politics in the post-revolutionary era and on European political thought.  Finally, we will shift the boundaries of the analysis beyond Europe to those places in the wider world (e.g. Australia, Ceylon, the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States) where the impact of these revolutions was also felt.

Russia and the West (Dr Hubertus Jahn)

Peter the Great Meditating the Idea of Building St Petersburg at the Shore of the Baltic Sea, by Alexandre Benois, 1916
Since the reforms of Peter the Great, the relationship between Russia and the West has been a constant point of reference in Russian politics, society and culture. It was closely linked to the development of and the struggle about a Russian national identity and it had profound effects on the modernization of the country (or the lack thereof). Starting with Peter’s reign and his introduction of Western ways, this course Option will examine European influences in Russia until the Revolution of 1917 by focusing on such diverse issues as architecture, philosophy and ideology, literature, art, music and mass culture. It will consider political reforms, revolutionary and reactionary movements, social transformation, imperial symbolism, national stereotypes and nationalism. By implication, any study of foreign influences will also highlight native peculiarities. This course therefore provides a solid base for further study of imperial Russian history. Very good reading knowledge of either Russian or French or German is highly recommended for this course.

The USA and Cold War Europe (Prof David Reynolds)

This option addresses two interrelated themes – how Europe was shaped by the superpowers during Cold War and how Europeans shaped the Cold War – over the half-century from 1941 to 1991. 

Major topics will include: the emergence of bipolarity, the German question, European integration, the Atlantic Alliance, Détente, the Eastern European revolutions, and the Soviet collapse. The central focus will be inter-state relations and their domestic ramifications. Attention will be given to the changing political economy, both within states and in the world at large, and to the tensions between and within alliance blocs.  The course will also explore the role of political leaders within the larger structures of international relations and the influence of ideology on both states and leaders.

This information is provided for illustrative purposes only.