Instructor: Dr. Hal Goldman
In 1939 when World War II began, many nations still fielded horse-mounted cavalry. By the time it was over six years later, the first jet-powered fighters streaked through the air and the first atomic bombs had been detonated over cities. Sixty million people had been killed and all the world had been changed. This course will take a comprehensive global history approach to this the greatest conflict in human history. We will examine the origins of the war in the failed post-World War I peace settlement and the rise of mass political movements in Italy, Germany, and Japan. We will study the tactical, strategic, and diplomatic prosecution of the war in both the Pacific and European theatres by the Allies and the Axis powers. We will focus in particular on the war experiences of ordinary men and women—those on the front line, those fighting behind the lines as partisans and resistance fighters, and those who remained back home, including those who faced repression, internment, and genocide. The course will end by examining the post-war settlement and on-going controversies concerning the memorializing of the war, including debates over the morality of dropping the atomic bomb, controversy over allied bombing of German cities, and controversial exhibits at the Smithsonian and Canadian War museums.
Students will study all this material through brief lectures, group exercises, reading assignments, film, poetry, photographs and other cultural sources. Coursework includes in-class activities, quizzes, and informal and formal writing assignments. Students completing the course will not only have a comprehensive understanding of one of the most important episodes in human history, they will also develop strong reading, analysis, research, and writing skills.