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Unit information: Behind the Wall: Living in East Germany (Level I Lecture Response) in 2016/17

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Unit name Behind the Wall: Living in East Germany (Level I Lecture Response)
Unit code HIST25020
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. McLellan
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This Lecture Response Unit explores the history of everyday life under communism in the German Democratic Republic. For those who lived on the Cold War front line, life could be dirty, drab and dispiriting. Bureaucracy in the workplace and shortages in the shops prompted grumbling and dissatisfaction. Restrictions on journeys both within and outside the Eastern Bloc were draconian. But people's private lives continued and for many people their families, hobbies, and holidays were a vital source of happiness. Others opposed the regime's norms, either by seeking to find free spaces for self-expression, or by engaging in active criticism of the state. Lecture topics will include: the Stasi, consumerism and leisure, young people, sexuality, outsiders, opposition and resistance, and 'ostalgia' - nostalgia for the vanished East German state since the collapse of communism. We will be working extensively with primary sources, including first person accounts, novels, photographs and film.


  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of academic tutors and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.
  • To develop students' ability to work with primary sources
  • To develop students' abilities to integrate primary source material into a wider historical analysis
  • To develop students' ability to learn independently within a small-group context
  • To familiarise students with the most recent literature on the social history of East Germany.
  • To introduce students to debates about the history of everyday life under communism.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have developed a deeper awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis and be able to:

  • set individual issues within their longer term historical context
  • analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change
  • select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points
  • derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion
  • identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint
  • work with English-language primary sources relating to life in East Germany
  • critically assess the secondary literature on the social history of the GDR

Teaching details

  • Weekly 2-hour interactive lecture sessions
  • Tutorial feedback on essay
  • Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Details

1 x 3000 word essay (50%) and 1 x 2 hour exam (50%)

Reading and References

  • Mary Fulbrook, The People's State (2005)
  • Katherine Pence and Paul Betts (eds.), Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Culture and Politics (2008)
  • Jonathan Osmond and Patrick Major (eds.), The Workers' and Peasants' State. Communism and Society in East Germany Under Ulbricht (2002)
  • Corey Ross, The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (2000)
  • Konrad Jarausch (ed.), Dictatorship As Experience. Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR (1999)