Course overview

By the 1930s there were three competing ideologies: Liberal Democracy, Soviet Communism and Fascism.. the latter in various national forms. Broadly the first two accepted the status quo and the latter in Japan, Germany and Italy were determined on revision. This set the scene for the ensuing conflicts in the Pacific and Europe. The course will examine how and why the world went to war during the 1930s. We will look at the role of individuals and consider how much difference it made that it was Hitler or Mussolini in charge rather than someone else. We will examine how it took time for the USA to emerge from isolation and how that tipped the balance when she did.

Course description

The second world war was a direct consequence of the world which emerged in 1919 with the collapse of four Empires, economic dislocation and national disappointments. Germany had been defeated but was likely to seek revision of the Versailles Treaty whoever was in charge. Italy whilst technically on the side of the victors suffered a ‘mutilated peace’ which opened the door to Fascism. Similarly Japan felt its rewards failed to match its ambitions as well as feeling slighted by the other victors. The peace settlements of 1919 were imposed ‘at the point of the bayonet’. Whether that peace would hold would depend on the willingness of the victors to maintain that imposed peace. With USA retreating into isolation, that role fell to Britain and France. Could they, would they have the resolve and hard power to resist the revisionists?

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