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HIST 3750—World War I

Three Semester Hours

DC 8/14


University Requisite: sophomore, junior, or senior status

Course Overview

This course covers the course of the “Great War” including its origins, conduct, and aftermath. We will consider the military, diplomatic, and cultural factors that led to the outbreak of the war, as well as how and why European governments and peoples were willing and able to sustain and expand their war. In addition to an intensive focus on the fighting itself, the war’s great battles, as well as the experience of combat of ordinary soldiers, special topics will include (among others) the Armenian genocide, the deployment of WMDs (including both poison gas and blockades), wartime technological and military developments, the war at sea, the breakup of multi-national empires, and the changing understanding and representation of the war.

Methods of Course Instruction

All material for this course is print-based. Instructor and students communicate and exchange materials through postal mail. 

Textbooks and Supplies

  • Junger, Ernst. Storm of Steel. UK: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2004. [ISBN: 9780141186917]
  • Strachan, Hew. The First World War. Viking, 2014. [ISBN: 9780143035183]
  • Audoin-Rouzeau, Stephanie and Annette Becker. 14-18: Understanding the Great War. Hill and Wang, 2014. [ISBN: 9780809046430]
  • Herrmann, David. The Arming of Europe and the Coming of the First World War. Princeton University Press, 1996. [ISBN: 9780691015958]

Number of Lessons

The course has 15 lessons, including one midcourse examination and one final examination. The topics include:

  • Lesson 1: The Hunger for War? Military and Diplomatic Tensions in Europe prior to 1914
  • Lesson 2: Outbreak—Part I: From the Third Balkan War to the First World War
  • Lesson 3: Outbreak—Part II: The Collapse of the Entente’s and Central Powers’ War Plans in 1914
  • Lesson 4: The Widening Fog of War: The Rest of the World’s War after 1914
  • Lesson 5: The Thickening Fog of War: Stalemates in Europe in 1915
  • Lesson 6: 1916, the Beginning of Deep War
  • Lesson 7: Midcourse Examination Information
  • Lesson 8: Remobilization in 1917: The Costly Will to Win
  • Lesson 9: The Beginning of the End? 1917 as a Year of German Victories
  • Lesson 10: A Year of Non-Magical Thinking? 1917 as a Year of Entente Desperation
  • Lesson 11: Rolling the Iron Dice: 1918 and Germany’s Bid for Victory
  • Lesson 12: Nemesis: Allied Counter-offensiveness and the Collapse of the Central Powers
  • Lesson 13: Demobilization? Europe’s Failed Return to Normalcy—Part I
  • Lesson 14: Demobilization? Europe’s Failed Return to Normalcy—Part II
  • Lesson 15: Final Examination Information

Types of Writing Assignments

Students will be expected to write short (500-word) essays that respond to questions concerning the readings (both in the textbooks and additional, assigned articles) for 12 of the 15 lessons of the course (there will be no written assignment due for the lessons corresponding to the midterm nor the final exam; also, students may elect to pass on one of the writing assignments for the non-exam lessons—with the exception of the first two lessons of written assignments, which are mandatory).

Grading Criteria

  • Weekly Short Essay (40%): 12 500-word essays are required for this class. (Each of the 13 non-exam lessons will have short essay questions given in the writing assignment portion of that lesson, but students are only required to submit 12 of these total. Students MUST answer the first two lessons’ questions, but after that, they are only required to write on 10 of the remaining lessons’ short essays—in other words, after the mandatory first two writing assignments, you can choose to skip one of the writing assignments). 
  • Midterm Exam (25%): There will be one midterm exam that will consist of analytical identifications and a selection of short essay questions. 
  • Final Exam (35%): The final will be comprehensive and consist of two essays.