World history since 1914

Course Material 2021/22

This paper explores the history of the interconnected twentieth century, taking in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It moves from the climax and decline of Europe’s older imperial systems during the first half of the twentieth century, to the emergence of new forms of power and the making of the global South. Central to the paper are themes of imperialism and colonisation, different forms of governance, resistance and nationalism, social and cultural change, as well as the effects of two world wars, world economic fluctuations, decolonisation, and the Cold War, on societies in the Global South. Relationships between the global and the local - and indeed the local in the global - help to understand how pressures towards integration and uniformity can often result in diversity and particularity.

The first half of the paper focuses on European imperialisms and the powerful ways in which these shaped the colonial societies, economies, and cultures of the major regions of the southern hemisphere. The notion of a ‘Third World’ and neo-colonialism emerged in the debates of the 1960s and 1970s, when the world’s states and economies seemed to be very clearly divided between those of the advanced ‘West’ and newly independent but still ‘underdeveloped’ countries – some of which made great developmental gains in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The second half of the paper turns to the ways in which these very forces of globalisation, and the opportunities they they create for unprecedented convergences of capital, technology and resources, raise again new issues of power and marginalisation, dominance and exploitation, in the complex and multicentred globalised societies of the twenty-first century.

However these forces play out in the next decades, an understanding of twentieth century transnational history and shifts in global power will help to inform current political debates and choices.

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Section notice

This material is intended for current students but will be interesting to prospective students. It is indicative only.