Interwar worlds: the cultural consequences of the First World War

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Dina Gusejnova room SAR M.14


This course is available on the BA in History, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Relations and History, BSc in Politics and History and BSc in Social Anthropology. 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.


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

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

Learning engagement includes content recorded in audio or video in collaboration with other students, live sessions, small group meetings, asynchronous moodle posts, and informal short presentations. This work will culminate in two independently researched essays based on a curated set of book reviews chosen from the course bibliography and beyond, and an individually researched case study.

Formative coursework

The draft of an analysis of a monument or primary source, 500 words in the MT.

The draft of a review of two books, 800 words in the MT.

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 (20%, 3000 words) and online assessment (20%) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Online assessment (10%) in the MT.
Class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.


Online assessment 1 (written analysis of a war memorial or primary source): 10%

Online assessment 2 (collaborative audio or video recording of a 10-minute group discussion of a war memorial or primary source, involving at least one more student from the course, a member of the general public, and an academic expert): 20%

Essay 1, book review essay on approaches to interwar cultural history (20%)

Essay 2, analysis of a case study (35%)

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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