The Social and Cultural History of the First World War

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
10 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The First World War is one of the most significant thresholds in modern history. It changed Europe and European societies profoundly, and had social and cultural repercussions on a global scale. This "total" or "industrial" war was not only about the immense loss of lives; it also brought about significant social, cultural, and political changes: democratization, women's suffrage and emancipation, challenges of traditional gender roles.

It ended the "long" 19th Century, largely destroyed the existing European political order and changed the political map of Europe profoundly. It caused the break-up of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman land empires, sparked the crisis of the British and French colonial empires, and led to the rise of the United States of America as the dominant world power.

The module will go beyond the traditional foci of 1914-1918 because the war was not only fought on the Western front, but also in Eastern Europe where the war went over into civil wars and interstate wars of newly established nation states. There, fighting came to an end only in the early 1920s and gave birth to Fascism and Totalitarianism in many European societies.

Since the First World War was the first "industrial" or "total" war, the module will go beyond traditional military and political factors, rather address the new culture of war and politics, and in general emphasise questions of social, economic, and cultural change.

Module aims

1. Conceptualize the First World War as part of a larger historical process, understanding the manifold reasons of its origins, its different facets, and its consequences and global significance for the 20th Century.
2. Familiarize students with the secondary literature about the First World War, different methodological approaches and interpretations.
3. Familiarize students with different kinds of sources of the war and how to interpret them.

Module learning outcomes

1. Develop an awareness of the complexity of historical phenomena and of the interaction of different factors that shape them.

2. Enhance analytical skills through the critical evaluation of primary and secondary sources.

3. Improve organizational skills by planning and carrying out an in-depth analytical survey of the literature on a given topic.

4. Enhance research and communication skills.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

Horne, John (Ed.), A Companion to World War I, Chichester 2010.

Winter, Jay (Ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, Cambridge 2014.

Sondhaus, Lawrence, World War I: the Global Revolution, Cambridge 2011.

Chickering, Roger & Stig Förster (Eds.), Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914-1918, Washington D. C. 2000.

Gerwarth, Robert & Erez Manela, Empires at War: 1911-1923, Oxford 2014.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Primary source analysis (1000 words)    35% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    65% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Felix Schnell, email:
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Rachel Rich
Leeds Beckett University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 30 hours, 30 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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