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HISTORY 2S03 War in the West:1850-1945 (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Martin Horn


Office: Chester New Hall 629

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 21602

Office Hours: Wednesday 10:30-12:20 and by appointment

Course Objectives:

The aims of the course are: 1) to impart an understanding of the development of warfare between 1850 and 1945 with a particular emphasis upon the two world wars; 2) to encourage students through essay writing to improve their analytical, research, and communication skills; 3) to foster an appreciation of the complexity of the past.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The following texts are required reading and are available for purchase in the University Bookstore:

Lawrence Sondhaus, World War One: The Global Revolution
Evan Mawdsley, World War II: A New History

Method of Assessment:

Course Structure
Lectures are held three times a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30-10:20. Lectures begin Tuesday 4 September and end Wednesday 5 December. Please note that this course does not use Avenue to Learn.


The mark breakdown is:

First essay 30%
Second essay 30%
Final exam 40%
Total 100%

Dates to Remember

5 October – no lecture
8-12 October – mid-term recess, no lectures
17 October – first essay due
21 November -- second essay due
December 2018 – final exam date TBA


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Essays and Grading


Students will write two essays. Each essay should be ten pages in length. Essays must be double-spaced in 12 point font. Lists of possible essay topics are appended below. Students may write an essay on a topic that is not listed on the outline. All students who wish to do so must obtain the approval of the instructor. Any essay that is submitted that is not on the list of topics on the outline and that has not received the sanction of the instructor will receive a grade of zero.


The research material employed in essays must be drawn from scholarly books and from articles in academic journals. Essays must have a research base of a minimum of six scholarly sources (a combination of either journal articles or books or acceptable web-sites). Any essay that does not have six acceptable sources listed in its bibliography will receive a grade of zero. Web sites such as Wikipedia are unacceptable sources for essays as are encyclopedias and reference works. Neither lectures nor the course textbooks count as acceptable sources for essays. Essays must contain either footnotes or endnotes as well as a formal bibliography. Examples of correct notation may be found in the Chicago Manual of Style and the MLA handbook. Parenthetical notation, that is notes in brackets in the text of the essay, is not permitted. A grade penalty deduction will be levied if students employ parenthetical notation.


The grade a paper receives will depend upon its clarity of expression and organization, as well as the cogency of the argument made and the thoroughness of the research. Essays should be well argued, researched and written. Along with historical content, spelling, grammar and punctuation are taken into account in the final grade. Students are advised to retain a copy of any written work submitted as part of the course requirements.


Late essays will be penalized 5% a day including weekends (the latter count as one). Essays must be submitted directly to the instructor. Any essay that is submitted after 4:00 on the date due will be deemed late. Essays may not be submitted by e-mail.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)
In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office. Because the assignments in 2SO3 are worth greater than 25%, students may not use the on-line self-reporting tool.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Lecture and Tutorial Reading Schedule

Week of:

3 September – Warfare at mid-nineteenth century

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapter 1.

10 September – The Changing Nature of War.

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapter 2.

17 September – The Coming of World War I.

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 3-4.

24 September – World War I

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 6, 11.

1 OctoberWorld War I

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 5, 7.

8 OctoberNo lectures, mid-term recess

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapter 9.

15 October – World War I.

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 8, 10.

22 October – World War I.

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 10, 12, 13.

29 October - Interwar Europe.

Reading: Sondhaus, Chapters 14-15; Mawdsley, Chapter 1.

5 November – World War II

Reading: Mawdsley, Chapters 2, 3.

12 November – World War II.

Reading: Mawdsley, Chapters 4,5,6.

19 November – World War II.

Reading: Mawdsley, Chapters 7, 8, 9.

26 November – World War II.

Reading: Mawdsley, Chapters 10, 11, 12.

3 December – World War II.

Reading: Mawdsley, Chapters 13, 14.

Research aids: academic journals

The following journals publish articles dealing with the history of war. This is not an exhaustive list. Many of the journals listed below feature work in this area irregularly. All of these journals are available on electronic access through the university library.


Historical Abstracts – a historical database

JSTOR – an article database


American Historical Review

Canadian Journal of History

Central European History

Contemporary European History

Diplomacy and Statecraft

Diplomatic History

Economic History Review

English Historical Review

European History Quarterly

French Historical Studies

First World War Studies

French History

German Historical Studies

German History


Historical Journal


Holocaust and Genocide Studies

International History Review

International Security

Journal of British Studies

Journal of Contemporary History

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Journal of Military History

Journal of Modern History

Journal of Strategic Studies

Past and Present

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society

War and Society

War in History

First essay topics:

1) Discuss the relationship between demographic change or imperialism or industrialization or the rise of mass politics between 1850 and 1914 and the practice of war in one of the following states: Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, or Russia.

2) Before 1914 many Europeans thought about a future war. These imaginings ran the gamut from speculative fiction such as H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds (1898) to non-fiction tracts like Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion (1910). Comment upon one of the following before 1914: Social Darwinist thought and future war; Pacifist thought and future war; or Socialist thought and future war.

3) Account for the failure of either Austro-Hungarian, or French, or German, or Russian military planning in 1914.

4) In his book The Donkeys (1961) the historian Alan Clark argued that the British military effort on the Western Front in 1914-15 was crippled by the incompetence of British generals, who wasted the lives of their troops. This suggestion has been applied more widely to the military leadership of each of the belligerent states during the war. Do you agree? Discuss with reference to one major combatant state: Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, or Russia.

5) Comment upon one of the following facets of the home front in one of the belligerent states between 1914 and 1918: art; civil-military relations; economics; gender; or politics.

6) Why did the Allies win the war in 1918?

Second essay topics:

1) Comment upon the influence of WWI on military planning in one of Britain, France, Germany or the Soviet Union during the interwar years.

2) Discuss civil-military relations in one of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, or the United States, in the 1930s.

3) Phillips Payson O’Brien in his book How the War Was Won (2015), has argued that British and American air and sea-power was decisive in defeating Germany and Japan, contrary to the view that land warfare was central in the outcome. Discuss this contention with reference to either the German or the Japanese defeat.

4) Between 1939 and 1942 Germany conquered much of Europe. Comment upon the experience of occupation for the occupied civilian population in one of: Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Yugoslavia during the war.

5) Famously, John Dower in his study War without Mercy (1987) described the war in the Pacific between the United States and Japan as a racial struggle. Similarly, the war on the Eastern Front between Germany and the Soviet Union has been so described. To what degree should we consider either the American-Japanese contest or the Eastern Front as racial conflicts? Discuss one of the two.

6) It has been argued that World War II is best understood as a war among empires. Comment upon the role of either the British Empire or the French Empire in the war from 1939 to 1945.