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Unit information: Genocide in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Level H Lecture Response Unit) in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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Unit name Genocide in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Level H Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST30028
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Gryta
Open unit status Not open




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


Can we call the twentieth century the Century of Genocides? Over the past hundred years we have witnessed a rise in state sponsored and ideologically driven violence against civil populations. But was is unprecedented? Or did the twentieth century only stand out from previous epochs because, for the first time ever, the international community defined and tried to prevent genocides? If imperfect, the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was truly unprecedented. Endeavouring to answer those questions, ‘Genocides in Twentieth Century and Beyond’ begins by trying to define the term genocide. We will then examine the recurrent nature of genocide and the measures taken to stop it. We will explore some of the most important aspects of the relationship between state sponsored violence and its effects on individuals and communities who are subjected to, and must eventually come to terms with the aftermath of genocide. We will focus on the manner in which the state vilifies ethnic and social minorities and on the circumstances under which scapegoating turns into massacres and genocide. We will analyse the destructive psychological effects of mass murder but also its ability to produce and reproduce those who partake in killing. Finally, we will try to understand why the international community keeps failing to prevent genocides. The unit examines the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust (the paradigm case) and mass killing in the Soviet Union. We will also analyse mass killings and genocide in Central America, Asia, Yugoslavia and East Africa. This is a multidisciplinary unit that draws on sociology, psychology, and history to explain the phenomenon of genocide. Therefore, we will base our discussions on the readings of various sources: history writings, literary works, investigative journalism, diaries and memoirs, and on analysing documentary films.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate an understanding of the varying natures of genocide in the twentieth century, how and why genocidal episodes occurred and what the consequences of these episodes were;

(2) analyse and generalise how the study of genocide fits into broader studies of war, nationalism, intolerance and historical memory;

(3) select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments;

(4) identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour interactive lecture per week

1 x one-hour workshop per week

Assessment Details

1 x 3000 word summative essay (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

1 x two hour exam (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

  • Gellately, Robert and Kiernam, Ben (eds.) The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  • Herzog, Dagmar (ed.) Brutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe’s Twentieth Century (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
  • Naimar, Norman Genocide. A World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Palmer, Alison Colonial Genocide (London: Crawford House, 2000)
  • Weitz, Eric A Century of Genocide (Princeton and London: Princeton University Press, 2003)