Texas Wesleyan University Course Syllabus

Spring 2018


Course: HIS 4399-40 Twentieth Century World History

Course Meeting Time: Tue 7-9:30

                       Location: EJW B26

Office: PMC 244

Instructor: Chris Ohan

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 9-12 and 2-3; Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-5:30,

or by appointment

Phone: 817-531-4913

E-mail: cohan@txwes.edu

Webpage: www.historymuse.net

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear…. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.  I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it more refined and enduring.”
–Erich Maria Remarque


“Man’s technical knowledge and capacity has outstripped his moral capacity. Evil has manifested itself so unmistakably in the twentieth century that modern man finds it increasingly difficult to deny its reality.”
– John Hallowell


If truth may cause a scandal, it is better to allow that scandal than to deny the truth.
–St. Gregory the Great (7th century)


Course Description:  This course examines the political, social, and cultural developments of the twentieth century, with emphasis on the era of the world wars and the Cold War, and the end of colonialism.  As the twentieth century serves as background to the dominant position of Asia in the twenty-first century, this course is particularly important to students in understanding the context of Asia’s position generally and Singapore’s place, specifically, in current events.


Course Learning Objectives                                                                           Degree Program Goals


Objective 1: Students completing this course will develop a basic understanding of the interplay of events and ideology as both shaped world history in the 20th century.

1. Develop a general knowledge of human history, including a basic chronology of both western and non-western societies covering time periods from the ancient to the modern.

Objective 2: a. Students will understand how different historical interpretations have shaped the world today.  b. They will understand the influential intellectual trends of the twentieth century.

2.  Understand Historical Interpretation and Historiography.


Objective 3: They will also be introduced to the historian’s craft and the important of sources in formulating sound arguments.  Students should appreciate and interpret multiple forms of evidence (textual, visual, oral, statistical, artifacts from material culture); differentiate between primary and secondary sources and understand how each is used via

  1. reading essays and primary sources relative to the period
  2. writing DBQ essays using primary sources.
  3. using computer software to produce all assignments.

3. Learn the various skills associated with the craft of history. These skills include:

a. Reading Comprehension and Cognitive Skills

b. Historical Thinking Skills

c. Research Skills

d. Written Communication Skills

e. Oral Communication Skills

f. Computer Literacy

Objective 4:  This course will prepare those students seeking secondary certification to perform well on the history and social studies content exams.

4. Students completing a major in the Department of History will be prepared to enter graduate programs in History, teach History in secondary or middle schools, or enter other careers open to graduates with degrees in the Liberal Arts.


Required Materials


Peter Watson, The Modern Mind, An Intellectual History of the 20th Century



Additional Readings:

See class schedule for additional on-line readings.


Instructional Methods

This is a lecture/discussion course.  Students will participate in class discussions over required readings.


Class Schedule

See below.


Evaluation and Grading

Your grade for the semester will be based on the following:


Weekly critiques








“Significant event” writing assignment:





Letter grade equivalent for this class: A (90-99), B (80-89), C (70-79), D (60-69), F (59 and below)


Test topics will come from supplemental readings, lectures, class discussions, occasional video material, and the textbook.  Test dates are listed below.


March 20       Midterm

May 15          Final


Attached to this syllabus is the “Significant Event” 2-3 page writing assignment.  The due date for the completed paper is February 6 at 7pm.  It should be submitted via Blackboard.


Students will submit a weekly 1-page overview summarizing the parts(s) of the weekly Watson readings they found the most compelling/interesting.  These pages are due prior to the start of each class (at 7pm) and will be submitted via Blackboard.  The first will be due January 30 at 7pm and the last will be due May 1 at 7pm for a total of 13.


Writing for this course should employ standard academic formatting—double spaced, 12-point Times font, 1 inch margins all around—with citations following either MLA or Chicago style.  If you need help with this see the guides on the links page of the class website, the Wesleyan library or the instructor.  Correct use of source information and citations is assumed on the college level.  Failure to cite or format according to one of the styles listed will result in a lower grade.  See Grading Guidelines on the class webpage for specific grading criteria regarding written work. 


Late Submissions:  Please note that work submitted after the specific time that it’s due will be penalized at the rate of one letter grade per day.  No work which is more than 4 days late will be accepted.  Please do not waste time with excuses; just get assignments turned in.


Classroom Participation:  Class discussion is an integral part of this class.  Students are expected to complete the required readings before coming to class.  If you do not complete the assigned readings prior to a class meeting, you may be quizzed or asked to leave the classroom. 


Internet/Blackboard:  Feel free to send e-mail to the address above.  Email is the official means of communication outside of actual class meetings so do check it regularly.  In addition, this syllabus, the lecture/reading schedule, as well as some of the course readings and any other class handouts will be posted on the above web address.  Please note that all outside of class writing assignments will be submitted via Blackboard.


Attendance is mandatory.  If you miss more than 2 classes (for us, that’s 2 weeks of class) consider the effect on your grade.  Should you miss more, please do not offer excuses, notes or request special consideration.  Keep in mind a) that “dropping a course” is perfectly legitimate when circumstances arise that prevent you from completion, and b) that I should not be expected to change class expectations based on your circumstances.  You are responsible for all class assignments regardless of attendance.  Quizzes covering assigned readings may be given at any time and factored into the course grade at the discretion of the instructor.  If you are unable to complete this course, you must withdraw from it.  Please note that if you miss more than two classes, I reserve the right to drop you from the course.  The last date to drop is Tuesday, 17 April.


Texas Wesleyan University Policies

·         Students should read the current Texas Wesleyan University Catalog and Student Handbook to become familiar with University policies.

·         Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s material as one’s own), or completing assignments for another person who will receive academic credit are impermissible. This includes the use of unauthorized books, notebooks, or other sources in order to secure or give help during an examination, the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers, or the presentation of unacknowledged material as if it were the student’s own work.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the academic discipline administered by the course instructor. Course exams may not be printed out. Any person possessing a hardcopy of a course exam will be in breach of copyright and may be held liable.]

·         Texas Wesleyan University adheres to a disability policy which is in keeping with relevant federal law. The University will provide appropriate accommodation as determined by the Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Michael Ellison. Students must notify instructors of any permanent or temporary disabilities and must provide documentation regarding those disabilities prior to the granting of an accommodation. For assistance, students should consult with Dr. Ellison at mellison@txwes.edu or (817) 531-7565.

·         Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a 'blueprint' for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.

·         Any course taken at Texas Wesleyan University and repeated for a grade must be repeated at Texas Wesleyan University. Any course taken at another university may be repeated at Texas Wesleyan, and the most recent grade on the course will be counted. When a course is repeated, the grade point average will be computed using the most recent grade achieved.

·         As noted in the catalog under the Unified Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Texas Wesleyan University is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you have experienced any such discrimination or harassment, including gender- or sex-based forms, know that help and support are available from the following resources:

o Complete online incident report: StART Incident Report Form

o Contact Campus Conduct Hotline (24 hours a day): (866) 943-5787

o Campus security (24 hours a day): (817) 531-4911

o Dean of Students: deanofstudents@txwes.edu OR (817) 531-4872

Please be aware that all Texas Wesleyan University employees, other than designated confidential resources (i.e., Community Counseling Center) are required to report credible evidence of prohibited discrimination or harassment to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or to one of the Title IX Assistant Coordinators.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the Community Counseling Center at (817) 531-4859 to schedule an appointment


Academic Integrity:


Familiarize yourself with Texas Wesleyan’s Student Code of Conduct.  Academics are not only devoted to learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge, but also to the development of ethically sensitive and responsible persons. By accepting membership in this class, you are joining a community characterized by free expression, free inquiry, honesty, respect for others, and participation in constructive change.  All rights and responsibilities exercised within this academic environment shall be compatible with these principles. 


Academic Dishonesty is a breach of the Student Code of Conduct.  Dishonesty includes:

  1. Plagiarism, representing the work of another as one's own work;
  2. Preparing work for another that is to be used as that person's own work;
  3. Cheating by any method or means;
  4. Knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and representing the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research;
  5. Knowingly furnishing false information to a university official relative to academic matters;
  6. Soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct in violation of this code.


Academic Dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. Any offense will result in an F in the class (not simply on the assignment) and be referred to the appropriate academic officials for adjudication. If you have any questions regarding this subject please see me.  For a detailed description and further clarification, please see the link for “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” on my website, the 2017-2019 Wesleyan Catalog (p. 84-86), or the Student Handbook.



·         I grade the quality of your work rather than the amount of time and effort you spent on it.


My Goal in teaching this class is not that you “learn” this history and philosophy of the twentieth century world.  (Learning about the past is, however, an important consequence.)  Rather, my goal is to teach you how to think and write critically about the past, which is more useful.  For our purposes, therefore, ideas will hold precedence over facts, dates, and the like.  It is important that you consider the classroom an open forum for discussion—of anything related to the themes and topics of the course.  (Of course, any argument—whether spoken or written—must be supported.)  While I or other students may challenge beliefs/perspectives, realize that the purpose is not to change them.  That said, an open/tolerant attitude is essential in this class.  Remember—this is a college course where you ought to be able to discuss things openly and intelligently.  If you choose to be intolerant and interrupt class discussion, I reserve the right to ask you to leave the classroom. 



History 4399-40: Tentative Lecture Topic and Reading Schedule

Jan 23




Jan 23

World War I and the Peace Process

Readings: Owen, “Dulce et decorum est” and “Disabled



Jan 30

Post-war Search for Meaning

Readings: Valéry, “Disillusionment” (1919/1922); Watson 1-4



Feb 6

Mass Society

Readings: Patmore, “The Angel in the House”; Mill, Subjection of Women; Le Bonn, “Mass Psychology” (1895); Watson 5-8



Feb 13

The Great Depression


Readings: Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937 (selection), Mussolini, "What is Fascism" (1932); Watson 9-12



Feb 20

Communism and the Revolution in Russia

Totalitarianism: Nazi Germany and the USSR

Readings: Lenin, "Marxism and Revisionism" (1908), Munich Pact (1938), Watson 13-16



Feb 27

China: Imperialism and Revolution

India: Imperialism and Independence

Readings: Gandhi, “Indian Home Rule” (1908), Watson 17-19



March 6

Mexico and Revolution

Japan: Modernization and Imperial Power

Readings: Madero, Plan de Potosi (1910); Plan de Ayala (1911); Watson 20-22



March 20

Midterm Take-home Essay Exam due @7pm



March 20

World War II: The Pacific

World War II: Europe

Readings: Japanese Note to the United States (December 7, 1941), Munich Pact (1938); Watson 23-25



March 27

The Holocaust

Readings: Wannsee Protocol (1944); Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz; Wiesel, “Reflections of a Survivor” (1987); Watson 26-28



April 3

Post-war Search for Meaning (again)

Readings:  Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism”; Watson 29-31



April 10

Cold War Basics


Readings: “Source of Soviet Conduct” (1947); Watson 32-34



April 17

Middle East

Readings: “The Jewish State” (1896); Reuveny, “The Last Colonialist”; NPR “The Mideast: A Century of Conflict”; Watson 35-37



April 24

1960s: Civil Rights and Student Protest

Fundamentalist Politics

Readings: MLK, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963); MLK, “A Time to Break Silence” (1967), Khomeini, “Islamic Government” (1970); Solzhenitsyn, “Harvard Address” (1978); Watson 38-40



May 1

The Collapse of Communism

The End of History, Globalization, and New World Order?

Readings: Gorbachev on Glasnost, Perestroika, Arms Agreement (YouTube video), Fukuyama, “The End of History?”; Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” (1993); Watson 41-42, Conclusion


May 8



Revisiting the “most significant event” of the 20th Century

May 15 @7pm

Final Take-home Essay Exam due @7pm



History 4399

“Significant Event” Writing Assignment


This assignment will draw on information and material explained on the first day of class.  (If you were absent for some reason, please take a look at someone’s notes.)  Think of this assignment as my way of measuring your comprehension of the significance of the century.  In effect, you’re telling me what you know about the century before we cover any material.


Completed papers are due at 7pm on February 6.  Late papers (for whatever reason—if you or a family member/pet is looking ill, or you have a premonition that you’ll break a finger on the hand that you write with or have a flat tire, turn in it early) will be penalized at a rate of 1 letter grade/day.


You will write a 2-3 page (type-written, double spaced, 1 inch margins all around, 12 point Times font) paper arguing the following:


“What is the most significant event of the twentieth century?”


This is not meant to be a report but a well thought-out and logically sound argument.  You will, of course, have a clear thesis and then support that thesis with credible information.


As for the event, you can use whatever criteria you like (political, economic, social, etc) but consider this—if I argue that the most significant event of the century was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 or the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait in 1990, I am suggesting that, for example, the successful creation and testing of atomic weapons or the US support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War were less significant, even though the latter are both fundamental causes of the former.