Fighting and Enduring the Great War

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Alex Mayhew (SAR.M.11)


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, 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

This MA Module will introduce students to the military, global, and socio-cultural histories of the First World War. Primarily concerned with the stories of those in the war zones, Fighting and Enduring the Great War will interrogate the conflict as a global event experienced at a local level. Though it will concentrate on individuals at the ‘sharp’ – or sharpish – end of the fighting, it will also investigate the interrelationships between military and home fronts.

Firstly, in Autumn Term, it will provide students with an in depth understanding of the war’s major campaigns, how they evolved and transformed, their course and outcome, and the experiences of those who fought in them. Next, in Winter Term, it will explore the mechanisms that allowed individuals to endure the conflict, comparing the experiences and perceptions of soldiers of different nationalities, and considering how these varied across time, armies, nationalities, and theatres of war.

Over the course of the year, students will be encouraged to engage with primary materials (institutional subscriptions allowing) and (particularly in Winter Term) to look towards other disciplines as they attempt to evaluate the mentalities and morale of the actors they encounter.


10 x 2-hour seminars in the AT; 10x 2-hour seminars in the WT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of the AT and the WT.

Formative coursework

2000-word Essay (AT); 1000-word Source Analysis (WT)

Indicative reading

  • Cornwell, Mark, The Undermining of Austria-Hungary: The Battle for Hearts and Minds (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000)
  • Das, Santanu, India, Empire and First World War Culture: Writings, Images and Songs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • Keene, Jennifer, Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001)
  • Kitchen, James, The British Imperial Army in the Middle East: Morale and Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)
  • Mayhew, Alex, Making Sense of the Great War: Crisis, Englishness, and Morale on the Western Front (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023)
  • Roper, Michael, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010)
  • Rowe, Laura, Morale and discipline in the Royal Navy during the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • Sanborn, Joshua, Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War and Mass Politics (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003)
  • Smith, Leonard V., Between Mutiny and Obedience: The Case of the French Fifth Infantry Division during World War I (Princeton: Princton University Press, 1994)
  • Watson, Alexander, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • Wilcox, Vanda, Morale and the Italian Army during the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)
  • Winter, Jay (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, Vols. 1-3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • Ziemann, Benjamin, War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914-23 (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2007)


Essay (35%, 3000 words) in the AT.
Essay (55%, 3000 words) in the WT.
Class participation (10%) in the AT and WT.

The Winter Term essay (55%) will also include a 1000-word source analysis.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2023/24: Unavailable

Average class size 2023/24: Unavailable

Controlled access 2023/24: 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