Interwar worlds: the cultural consequences of the First World War

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Dina Gusejnova room SAR M.14


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.

Course content

A political catastrophe of global proportions, the First World War also had a transformative impact on cultural life worldwide throughout the interwar period. Trenchcoats, jazz, shellshock, avantgarde, aerial photography, radio news, spotlights – these wartime notions also represent a profound impact on cultural practices in the postwar era. This course will examine how technological, social, and political changes brought about cultural change in postwar societies, principally focusing on the transnational and global circulation of commodities, ideas, population groups, and cultural fashions between Europe and the world. Technological advancements spurned by military needs, such as radio, telephony, and photography, became available to postwar populations on a new scale. The representation of war atrocities and their impact on the human psyche created a need for new, hybrid, multilingual, and multimedia communication. Wartime disruption and change to education continued to have an impact on schools and universities in the postwar years, intensifying the global circulation of ideas. The increase in contact between previously disconnected communities, mediated as well as direct in places like prisoner of war camps, increased the exposure to different ideas, sights and sound, leading to the emergence of increasingly global cultural fashions such as jazz. Nonetheless, this globalisation of culture also went hand in hand with the growth of new forms of racist caricature and the drawing of new frontiers. The role of international and humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross or YMCA in wartime changed the relationship between states and societies by introducing a transnational dimension to cultural provision, yet it is noteworthy that this new internationalism was neither disinterested nor did it lie ‘beyond’ ideology.

The course is organised around weekly themes which will discuss the war’s “cultural consequences” through specific case studies and documents rather than a broader narrative of interwar cultural history. This will be supplemented by a systematic engagement with a range of methodological approaches to cultural and intellectual history in global and transnational perspective. By the end of MT, students will be encouraged to develop a research specialism in one of the thematic areas and concentrate on a local, national, or global dimension of this theme. In seminars and independent coursework, they will engage in the close reading and interpretation of key artefacts, ideas, or works of intellectual history, whose analysis will facilitate a nuanced understanding both of the scale and the depth of cultural change brought about by the war. Did the war act as a catalyst for a new, hybrid global culture, which had already been emerging in the age of steam and print? Did it increase the global hegemony of European culture or weaken it? How did America’s entry into the war affect the place of American culture in the postwar period? To what extent did the war give greater resonance to previously marginal cultural movements? What was the relationship between cultural change and political radicalism? How did experiences and expectations of gender and sexuality change in this period? How did interwar culture correspond to the making of new worlds in urban and rural settings, in colonies and mandates, in national or diasporic communities? These are some of the questions we will be exploring throughout the course.


Students will engage with class content in large and small group meetings. Learning engagement includes recorded content, live sessions, small group meetings, asynchronous moodle posts, and short presentations.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Michaelmas and the Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

Formative essay or annotated research bibliography on a subject of choice 1,500 - 2,000 words

Formative source analysis exercise, 500 words

Indicative reading


‘From 1919 to 2019: Pivotal lessons from Versailles’, panel discussion at LSE with Margaret MacMillan, David Stevenson and Linda Yueh http://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?id=4790

recording here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?id=4790

Atina Grossman, ‘The New Woman’ (2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LcovM4OqR0&list=RDCMUChrvkZPNMeC6nwMzoD6Gj6w&start_radio=1&t=0

Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Commissariat of Enlightenment. Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts under Lunacharsky, October 1917–1921 (Cambridge, 2002)

Robert Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923 (London, 2016)

Adom Getachew, Worldmaking after empire: The Rise and Fall of Self- Determination (Princeton, 2019)

Mary Hammond and Shafquat Towheed, Publishing in the First World War. Essays in Book History (Basingstoke, 2007)

Richard Overy, The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilisation [1919 - 1939] (London, 2010)

David Stevenson, 1914 - 1918: The History of the First World War (London: Penguin Books, 2012).

Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Source analysis (15%) and presentation (15%) in the MT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: 14

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

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