Europe Since 1945

Open, Lecture—Fall

With the conclusion of the longest and most destructive war in modern history, the countries of Europe faced the formidable challenge of reconstructing their economies, societies, and national cultures. At the same time, a new conflict soon emerged in the form of a cold war—one supported by a massive number of nuclear weapons—and kept the continent divided into two hostile camps until the last decade of the century. This course will explore those critical years, beginning with the Yalta and Potsdam treaties, the Nuremberg and successor trials, and the Marshall Plan. Other key topics to be investigated include the rise of the European welfare state, the historic rapprochement between France and Germany, the process of decolonization, and the nonviolent 1989 revolutions in the Eastern bloc. Of major concern is the question of European unity and its prospects for realization in the present century, along with the transatlantic relationship with the United States particularly since the events of 9/11. We will also try to remain current with unfolding, present-day events. The lectures will be supplemented by various documentary films and attention to cultural developments, especially in the visual arts. The group conferences will focus on individual works by leading authors such as Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Milan Kundera.