The GDR and Communist Parties in Europe 1949-1990

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Arnd Bauerkaemper


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course will be divided into two sections. The first (major) part provides an overview of political, economic, social and cultural transformations in the GDR. Beyond comparison, mutual perceptions, relations and entanglements between the two German states will also receive attention. The second section will concentrate on the transnational history of East Germany’s ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party (Staatssozialistische Einheitspartei, SED), which was integrated into a European-wide network of Communist parties, including the West German KPD and DKP, respectively. The leading functionaries of the SED interacted with their “comrades” in various European countries. Yet the obstacles to exchange – in particular different national traditions, specific contexts, power asymmetries and misunderstandings – have to be taken into account, as well. All in all, the course aims to relate the history of the GDR to the development of the Federal Republic of Germany and embed it into its wider European context.



20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

10 x two-hour seminars in the MT and the LT. There will be a reading week in the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

Corey Ross, The East German Dictatorship. Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (London: Arnold, 2002); Mary Fulbrook, Interpretations of the Two Germanies, 1945–1990 (2nd edition, Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000); Mary Fulbrook, A History of Germany 1918–2008: The Divided Nation (3rd edition, Malden, Oxford, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2009); Mary Fulbrook / Andrew I. Port (eds.), Becoming East German. Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler (New York: Berghahn Books, 2013); Mary Fulbrook (ed.), Power and Society on the GDR, 1961-1979. The ‘Normalisation of Rule’?” (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009); Christoph Kleßmann (ed.), The Divided Past: Rewriting Post-war German History (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2001); Charles S. Maier, Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997); Frank Bösch (ed.), Geteilte Geschichte. Ost- und Westdeutschland 1970-2000, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015; Uwe Backes / Patrick Moreau (eds.), Communist and Post-Communist Parties in Europe (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008); Francesco Di Palma / Wolfgang Müller (eds.), Kommunismus in Europa. Europapolitik und -vorstellungen europäischer kommunistischer Parteien im Kalten Krieg (Paderborn: Ferdinad Schöningh, 2016); Hedwig Richter, Die DDR (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh/UTB, 2009); Ulrich Mählert (ed.), Die DDR als Chance. Neue Perspektiven auf ein altes Thema (Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 2016); Sonja Levsen / Cornelius Torp (eds.), Wo liegt die Bundesrepublik? Vergleichende Perspektiven auf die westdeutsche Geschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016).


Essay (40%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Essay (40%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (10%) and class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.

Assessment will be via seminar participation, one oral presentation (accompanied by an annotated bibliography), and two 3,000-word essays. The first assessed essay will be due in the LT; the second in the ST. Essay questions will be selected from an approved list supplied at the start of the course.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills