HY332GC      Half Unit
Interwar worlds: the cultural consequences of the First World War (Spring Semester)

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Dina Gusejnova room SAR M.14


This course is available to General Course ‘Spring Semester’ 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. Trench coats, jazz, shellshock, avantgarde, aerial photography, radio news, spotlights – such fashions and cultural practices were the consequence of wartime developments or technologies which had become widespread as the conflict evolved. 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.

Did the war create a new, hybrid global culture? Or did it increase the global hegemony of European culture? 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? How did gender norms change as a result of the permeation of military culture into what used to be the home front? Interwar culture is often associated with urban and metropolitan communities, but how did it develop in rural or distant settings? How did the new exposure to previously unfamiliar populations change ideas of friends and enemies? Which earlier myths or historical memories were mobilised in order to cope with the war experience? The course will be organised around 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.


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 Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce two pieces of coursework in the Lent Term:

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

Formative source analysis exercise, 500 words.

Indicative reading

Introductory materials:


‘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

Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring. The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston and New York, 1989)

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%, 1500 words) in April.
Essay (50%, 2000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (15%) in the LT.

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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