I’m teaching a graduate course at Mason this summer called “War and Society in Modern Europe.” I haven’t worked out a syllabus yet, but here is a course description and book list. There will be other readings, too, but these are the books that we’ll read in common.
Modern European history cannot be understood without also studying the history of war. Likewise, the history of war in modern Europe cannot be understood independently of the broader social, political, cultural, economic, and technological context within which Europeans fought their wars. Ironically, however, military developments do not receive adequate attention in general European history, and broad developments in European society tend to be overlooked in histories of warfare—or so it often seems. In fact, there are general historians, albeit too few, who incorporate military history into their research and teaching, and there are military historians who carefully contextualize their work. If military history is sometimes looked down upon in the academy, its practitioners and those who refuse to accept the label of “military historian” have nonetheless produced an impressive body of work. In a field described with labels such as “war and society” and “new military history,” it has become possible to link military history, social history, cultural history, gender history, political history, and economic history to understand the all-encompassing activity that war became by the early twentieth century, if not earlier. In this course, we will sample some of this literature as well as a limited number of primary sources, whereby the emphasis will be on the historiography. We will discuss books in common, and each student will also present and write a review of a specialized monograph. The larger project for the term will be a historiographical essay that reviews the relevant literature on a specific topic, either covering an aspect of war and its societal context or examining a seemingly nonmilitary development and its actual relationship to war.
- Connolly, Owen, The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 1792–1815. New edition. Routledge, 2005. [ISBN: 0415239842]
- Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of German Unification. Arnold, 2004. [ISBN: 0340580178]
- Gregory, Adrian. The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War. Cambridge UP, 2008. [ISBN: 0521728835]
- Davis, Belinda J. Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin. U of North Carolina P, 2000. [ISBN: 0807848379]
- Stites, Richard. Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia. Indiana UP, 1995. [ISBN: 0253209498]
- Mosse, George L. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. Oxford UP, 1991. [ISBN: 0195071395]
- Klimke, Martin and Maria Höhn, A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany. Palgrave, 2010. [ISBN: 0230104738]
- Townsend, Charles, ed. The Oxford History of Modern War. Updated edition. Oxford UP, 2005. [ISBN: 0192806459]
- Morillo, Stephen with Michael F. Pavovich. What is Military History? Polity, 2006. [ISBN: 0745633919]
Students who are unfamiliar with the material or are eager to learn more might also want to read two classic surveys on this subject: Geoffrey Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770–1870 and Brian Bond, War and Society in Europe 1870–1970.