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Unit information: Communism in Europe in 2016/17

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Unit name Communism in Europe
Unit code MODL30001
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Allinson
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


At the end of the Second World War, Europe gradually became divided between West and East as Communist regimes emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, orchestrated by Stalin’s Soviet Union. In this co-taught unit, combining political, social and cultural history, we shall explore through comparative study how these regimes took and maintained power, the new society they aspired to create, the actual experience of life under them, the nature of opposition to them, the circumstances of their eventual collapse and how they are remembered now. The unit is recommended to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of twentieth-century European political history, the Cold War, Communism in practice, the Soviet brand of so-called totalitarianism, imperialism and colonialism, the rise and fall of idealism and ideology and aspects of everyday life under dictatorship, from internal oppression to popular culture and the position of women. The unit aims to challenge key preconceptions, reflecting on both the differences between various countries’ experience of state Socialism and the unexpected similarities between East and West in the period. All primary material will be studied in English.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed

  1. a deep historical knowledge of the complexities of communist rule and society in postwar eastern Europe;
  2. an understanding of the interconnections between politics, economics, culture and society in the specific context of communist eastern Europe;
  3. a deeper awareness of how to approach historical analysis;
  4. the ability to set individual issues and countries comparatively within their longer-term and broader context;
  5. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate arguments;
  6. the ability to identify particular academic interpretations, evaluate them critically and form an individual viewpoint;
  7. the acquisition of advanced writing and research skills, appropriate to level H.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught in a combination of lectures and seminars.

Assessment Details

3000-word essay (50%) plus 2-hour exam (50%) Testing ILO's 1-7

Both forms of assessment will test subject knowledge of the field. Students will be required to developed detailed and extended analytical arguments based on independent research using a range of source materials. They will show an awareness of methodologies appropriate to the subject matter.

Reading and References

R.J.Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century – And After, Routledge, 1997. Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of Communism, Bodley Head, 2009. Geoffrey Swain, Nigel Swain, Eastern Europe since 1945, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. David Priestland, The Red Flag, Penguin, 2010. Tony Judt, Post-War: A History of Europe since 1945, Vintage, 2010.