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Europe and Western Civilization in the Modern Age

Do you want to improve your understanding of where we are today, how we got here, why the 20th century unfolded as it did, and even what the next millennium might hold? This perceptive, richly documented course covers the history and global impact of Europe since the French Revolution.
Europe and Western Civilization in the Modern Age is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 71.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from informative & enjoyable overall, a very informative & enjoyable course. However, the prof's presentation skills are only ok; too much stumbling, hesitations & other distractions. One serious negative from my limited knowledge - in discussing WWI, the armistice, negotiations & the League of Nations, he was far too easy on Pres Wilson. It sounded like poor Wilson did his best & was ganged up on by the big bad Europeans. The reality was Wilson was hugely ego driven, uncompromising, a prig, & outclassed. He simply wasn't up to the job.
Date published: 2024-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable review of European history I think this is a first rate course and highly recommend it. It is remarkable in that it is a review of over 200 years of European history from the French Revolution in 1789 to the end of the twentieth century. The course came out in 1998 so there has been 25 more years of history since then. I found the course provided me with revision when I already had knowledge of the period, clarification frequently, and sometimes completely new knowledge. I had a number of 'aha' moments when suddenly something made sense to me. Each lecture is interesting and informative and there is a gradual progression through the history. There are plenty of maps and photos so it is visually interesting and in the background you can watch out for changing of national flags and pictures. The course covers huge themes: revolutions; the breaking up of empires and the formation of empires; wars (what led up to them, the progress and impact of the war, and what happened after); the unifications of countries (Germany had three); political and social and economic systems; nationalism; even literary and scientific advances; industrialisation. You learn so much. I was sorry to come to the end of the lectures and shall definitely listen to them again. It has also made me think of all that has happened in the world since 1998. We have had the war on terror followed by wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. There is presently the war in Ukraine. And of course the concerns about climate warming and the Covid pandemic. A very interesting and thought provoking course.
Date published: 2023-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vital Political Lessons for Today Childers has always been a favorite in my value vs. time equation. 48 lectures are not excessive as they brilliantly summarize 9 other Great Courses. This 1998 course is NOT simply historical. Rather, it examines “all the 'isms' of the modern political world", asks about the effects of ceaseless change, and the constant "redefining of absolutes (or are there any?)”. It finely dissects political motivations, becoming a great tool for considering the problems of today that are listed in the SUMMARY below. Accuracy in speech is again becoming extremely important. Important for today are the political/social implications that Childers brings to almost every lecture. He is astoundingly neutral in his portrayals yet does not ignore the factual consequences of political policy. For example, the French Terror held together because it allowed the poorest to eat. The Jacobins, trying to further damage the prior greed of the Church, not only rebelled via a new calendar but inanely built “Temples of Reason’ and bizarrely founded the "Cult of the Supreme Being" (L6). L11 pointed out a relevant question today: English industrial revolution inventions “were the products of tinkerers...not the Schools of Science and Technology". Michael Dell would agree. L12 on the social impact of the industrial revolution noted a “gap between business behavior and private morality" suddenly appeared. L21 begins the modern complaint: “liberal capitalism had succeeded in generating great wealth (but) failed to distribute (equitably)." Against this Childers places Max Weber’s argument that "bureaucratization, not lack of ownership...alienated workers". Been there. L19 implicates Social Darwinism's “survival of the fittest" mentality with viewing races in hierarchical terms. Unfortunately, Europe’s mathematical and chemistry advantages (leading to cannon and the Maxim machine gun) were forgotten because of such Darwinist nonsense. L20 is an excellent review of Marxism’s reliance on economics (“dialectical materialism") rather than ideas as engines of history. L21 then describes why the "anti-modernism" movement `rejected the basis of the Enlightenment, Marxism and liberalism”: “they embraced the organic…and dismissed the mechanistic.” L31-2 suggest that the Bolshevik Revolution was in part due to popular dissatisfaction with Russians leading entrepreneur: the government. Yet one year later Lenin was wounded in an assassination attempt. His was an authoritarian, repressive government but Stalin (L29) introduced the world’s first totalitarian regime with purges as early as 1927. Ultimately, they led to a total death toll between 1929-39 of 20 million (plus 2-3 million Kulak peasant proprietor deaths due to farm collectivization by 1932)– figures rarely cited by today’s universities that seem laser focused on the later Nazi totalitarian regime. (L36-8) Hitler’s NSDAP combined socialist and nationalist ideas, while opposing both Marxism and capitalism. Its aim was to overcome religion and class creating “people’s comrades”. [A wise high school teacher once said that politics is like an earring where at the extremes, right and left almost meet.] Appeasement, of course, eventually led to WWII with its 37-55 million deaths. Childers also spends a lot of time on the strategies of each major leader, be it to “isolate Napoleon’s enemies... diplomatically or by one"(L8), Louis Napoleon's modernized conservative rule (L15), and the amazing non-colonial "Realpolitik" ploys of Germany's Bismark (L25). Forced into retirement by Kaiser William II, the resulting “Weltpolitik” (global policy), combined with problems in the “sick men of Europe) (the Ottoman Empire and Habsburg Monarchy) led to WWI decaying bodies resurfacing during remorseless trench shelling and millions of dead soldiers and civilians (L26-30). Hitler’s brilliant maneuvering, Goebbels' invention of "modern campaigning" propaganda, and international vacillation allowed another pathway for totalitarian rulers: “race for the Nazis and dialectical materialism for the Bolsheviks" (L36-7). SUMMARY: Childers’ course examines how radically different totalitarianism is from traditional authoritarian regimes including (course Scope)” ... the refusal of such regimes to recognize the distinction between public and private spheres of behavior”. Today we fear many such tensions. While the Great Course “Stress and Your Body" by Sapolsky (L17) informs us that the human frontal cortex has not fully matured until age 25, “transition surgery" without parental involvement) is approved for minors in their early teens "by all major medical associations" (Psaki, 5/22). Meanwhile, US proposals for the WHO to direct US responses during epidemics, a nearly implemented federal Disinformation Governance Board, and a proposed Federally controlled digital currency heralded as the “New World Order”, are trumpeted at the highest levels. Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset” is pushed during in “the narrow epidemic window". In 1998, Childers could validly conclude: “Marxist socialism is in full retreat" (L48). Are we approaching a new age of advanced Weltpolitik Enlightenment or is it global Marxist totalitarianism? Are we seeing a repeat of L37's "No truth, no morality exists except within the framework of (governmental) ideology?” Does the present government seek "to atomize society, making the only adhesive ...its organizations"? Take the course and decide. My father fought as an Army Sgt at both the Battle of the Bulge and Remagen (L44). My West Point son and I have stood together at the Remagen remains. Your choice is important.
Date published: 2022-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nicely organized and well presented This course provides the essentials of cause, miscalculation and result for the European wars, beginning with the pre-Napoleonic era and continuing to the end of the Twentieth Century with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the union of the Western European states. I would not quarrel with any of Prof. Childers’ analyses. What is needed is a sequel that takes us from the conclusion of World War II to the disaster in the Middle East that the Allied victors visited on the world. That will be a difficult and contentious task. Altogether, a fine course. HWF, Mesa AZ.
Date published: 2021-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from in depth and what id like to know and well taught its what i would like to know and my interest is as far as i wanted to learn and i really like these courses and i like how it was overview and its good and in depth a bit old now but it really covered everything the course was special i have wanted to ask about this for years and i am very happy with the course.
Date published: 2021-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good course A very very helpful course; definitely worth listening twice or even more. Easy to follow in the gym.
Date published: 2021-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from European History Without an Agenda Professor Childers was one of the original stable of Teaching Company great presenters. In this course, while over two decades old and without the more recent production values that have come to be expected, Professor Childers continued to approach this huge and complex time period from the Ancien Regime to the end of the twentieth century with great professionalism. As always, his presentation does not feature "glitz" or "flash," but for me it comes closer to an authentic college lecture format than many others. He does not attempt to foist on us any political bias, but rather adheres to a narrative that is easy to follow and authoritative. His delivery may be uneven at times, but he never appears wedded to a teleprompter, which I find extremely approachable. In addition, while each lecture is able to stand on its own, their order is logical and coherent. Professor Childers' academic concentration generally is on World War II, and he pays full attention to that period here, but never in a way that robs the overall power of his narrative.
Date published: 2021-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 22 years old but still excellent This 48-lecture course traces the political and cultural history of Europe from the time of the French Revolution up to the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th Century. Despite being 22 years old, it remains accurate, relevant, and important in today’s tumultuous time. Although it focuses on what happened in Europe, there is plenty of overlap with America, and the majority of individual lectures invoke comparisons and other applicability to what we are experiencing today, two decades into the 21st Century. Professor Childers is not charismatic in the way that, say, Professors Allitt and Liulevicius are in the same general subject area, and Teaching Company production advances in the last decade make these presentations seem more static and plodding in comparison—for me making taking the course a more concerted effort—but the presenter’s authoritativeness, command of the material, and synthesis are on a par with the company’s top offerings, and it was unquestionably worth it. Despite having now taken a number of Great Courses touching on the same general historical period and subject matter, I found new material and gained new insights in every lecture.
Date published: 2020-11-27
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Consider the events explored, explained, and connected by this course. Three lifetimes ago, Europe was a farming society ruled by families of monarchs:In one life, England became an industrial power; thousands were guillotined in France; Napoleon's Empire rose and fell; and revolution swept Europe. In one more lifetime, Italy and Germany were created from a collection of city-states; European powers conquered Africa; and millions died in a Great War. And in a third lifetime, the world plunged into economic depression, global war, and genocide; Europe abandoned its African colonies; the Soviet Union rose and fell; and the same powers that had bled each other for hundreds of years created a Common Market and unified currency.


Thomas Childers

Facts don't change, but we do, and our perspective on them changes. We learn new things, and as a result of this, it is necessary to reevaluate ... what we have known and how it looks different to us at this particular point.


University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Thomas Childers is Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching for over 25 years. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University.

Professor Childers has held visiting professorships at Trinity Hall College, Cambridge, Smith College, and Swarthmore College. He is a popular lecturer abroad as well, in London, Oxford, Berlin, and Munich.

Professor Childers has won several teaching awards, including the Ira T. Abrahms Award for Distinguished Teaching and Challenging Teaching in the Arts and Sciences, the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching in History, and the Senior Class Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Professor Childers is the author and editor of several books on modern German history and the Second World War. He is currently completing a trilogy on the Second World War. The first volume, Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II, was praised by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post as "a powerful and unselfconsciously beautiful book."

By This Professor

A History of Hitler's Empire, 2nd Edition
World War II: A Military and Social History
Introduction—Europe in the

01: Introduction—Europe in the "Modern Age"

Historians often see the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution as ushering in "the modern age." These two revolutions effected an epochal break in Western history, altering the economic, social, and political landscape of Europe in ways that can be traced over the succeeding centuries.

32 min
Social and Political Life Under the Ancien Regime

02: Social and Political Life Under the Ancien Regime

Here is an account of the cultural practices, social structure, and political institutions of the order that was to be swept away by the Age of Revolution. Special attention is paid to the positions of various classes, and to the various forms that the monarchical state had assumed by the eve of the French Revolution.

31 min
Intellectual and Cultural Life—The Challenge of the Enlightenment

03: Intellectual and Cultural Life—The Challenge of the Enlightenment

What were the main ideas of the late 18th-century Enlightenment? Who were its leading figures? How did this movement of thought challenge Europe's old order? Also examined is the basis of the Enlightenment in the Atlantic societies of Britain and France.

33 min
The Origins of the French Revolution

04: The Origins of the French Revolution

Both long- and short-term conditions contributed to the crisis of the French monarchy and the Revolution of 1789. The two sets are analyzed, with special focus on the dilemmas of French absolutism and the social bases of political unrest.

31 min
The Outbreak of the Revolution and the Monarchist Response

05: The Outbreak of the Revolution and the Monarchist Response

Between the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and the creation of the constitutional monarchy in 1792 came the Great Fear, the Tennis Court Oath, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the breakup of the revolutionary coalition, and a number of threats to the Revolution at home and abroad.

31 min
The Terror and Its Aftermath

06: The Terror and Its Aftermath

The "Second Revolution" of 1792 was followed by the Terror of 1793–94, with Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety at its head. How did the Revolution take this extremist turn? What was the Terror like, and what were its immediate toll and lasting impact?

30 min
The Rise of Napoleon—Heir of the Revolution or New Form of Tyranny?

07: The Rise of Napoleon—Heir of the Revolution or New Form of Tyranny?

Out of the period of the Directory (1795–99) came an ambitious young general named Napoleon Bonaparte. What lay behind his dramatic rise to power and his creation of the Empire out of elements both revolutionary and authoritarian? Was he, as he claimed, the legitimate heir of the Revolution's ideals?

30 min
Napoleonic Europe—An Epoch of War

08: Napoleonic Europe—An Epoch of War

The Napoleonic state—Europe's largest empire since Roman days—had a brief but violent career from 1800 to 1815. It posed severe ideological and geopolitical challenges to the monarchies, confronting them in a series of wars that set the continent aflame until Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.

32 min
The Restoration and Reactionary Conservatism

09: The Restoration and Reactionary Conservatism

At the close of the Napoleonic Wars, the victorious legitimist powers met at the Congress of Vienna. There, led by the Austrian chief minister Klemens Metternich, they tried to create a Concert of Europe that would check the rise of revolutionary forces anywhere on the continent.

31 min
The Challenge of Liberal Nationalism

10: The Challenge of Liberal Nationalism

A leading threat to the restored monarchies of Europe was the conjunction of liberalism and nationalism that arose in the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. From 1815 to 1848, Metternich and other legitimist leaders would struggle to suppress nationalism wherever it raised its head.

31 min
Liberal Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution—The English Experience

11: Liberal Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution—The English Experience

The focus shifts from politics to the momentous economic changes that would transform overwhelmingly agrarian Europe into an industrial colossus by the end of the 19th century. England takes center stage as the Industrial Revolution is defined and its component parts are analyzed, with the focus on the questions of why it began where and when it did.

29 min
The Social Impact of the Industrial Revolution

12: The Social Impact of the Industrial Revolution

Industrialization had dramatic social implications, not least in the rise of a new class of aggressive industrial and commercial entrepreneurs. With burgeoning factories and growing cities came also a large working class whose difficult living and working conditions led to the first stirrings of a labor movement.

29 min
The Revolution in France

13: The Revolution in France

The first Europe-wide revolution of the modern age began in France in February 1848. In this first of three lectures on the events of that critical year, France is the focus. There, both the revolutionary forces and their conservative opponents were split into factions. By December, Louis Napoleon had come to power through elections and set about turning the Second Republic into a new kind of modern conservative regime.

33 min
Revolution in Central Europe

14: Revolution in Central Europe

In the German- and Italian-speaking lands, the revolutionaries of 1848 faced the challenge not only of erecting constitutional polities, but of forging politically unified nation-states. A recounting of the political dramas that unfolded in this region is accompanied by a look at the reasons why revolution failed there.

30 min
The Political Implications of the Revolution

15: The Political Implications of the Revolution

What did the revolutionary events accomplish, and what lessons could be drawn from this year marked by upheaval on a continental scale? Revolutionary governments that rode to power on a wave of liberal fervor were swept out again after less than 12 months. Yet the spirit of liberal nationalism would not go away, even as the most astute conservatives were learning how they could use nationalism for their own purposes.

29 min
The Unification of Germany

16: The Unification of Germany

No conservative leader was more skillful at co-opting nationalism than Prince Otto von Bismarck, chief minister of Prussia beginning in 1858. He used a combination of liberal economic policy, popular nationalism, astute diplomatic maneuvering, and sheer military might to pursue his goals, securing the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership in 1871.

31 min
The Unification of Italy

17: The Unification of Italy

Under Count Cavour, chief minister of Sardinia-Piedmont, Italy, began a process of national unification that would also culminate in 1871. Cavour, like Bismarck, successfully employed elements of liberalism and nationalism, underscoring the latter's migration from left to right on the political spectrum.

31 min
The New Imperialism

18: The New Imperialism

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the European powers embarked on a wave of colonial expansionism that differed significantly from earlier drives from territory abroad. What were the causes and dynamics of this new drive for empire, and why did it occur when it did?

29 min
Race, Religion, and Greed—Explaining European Expansion

19: Race, Religion, and Greed—Explaining European Expansion

Observers at the time, including Lenin and J. A. Hobson, tried to explain the new imperialism in economic terms. These and other possible motivating factors explored, and imperialism's effects on Europe itself are weighed.

29 min
Marx and the Challenge of Socialism

20: Marx and the Challenge of Socialism

Socialism appeared early in the 19th century as a utopian political movement, received its most influential "orthodox" theoretical development in the works of Karl Marx, and also proved a driving force in the rise of labor unions and socialist parties across Europe as the century drew to a close.

31 min
The Social Problem and the Crisis of Liberalism

21: The Social Problem and the Crisis of Liberalism

By the 1890s, universal male suffrage had ushered in a new political era, and socialism's mounting challenge was pressing liberals and conservatives alike. Capitalism had generated unheard-of wealth, but inequities in its distribution remained acute. How did liberals come to grips with "the social problem" in ways that remain influential today?

28 min
A New Conservatism—Anti-Modernism and the Origins of Fascism

22: A New Conservatism—Anti-Modernism and the Origins of Fascism

With the return of divine-right monarchy no longer possible, conservative voices began to object to both liberal capitalism and Marxian socialism. In England, France, Germany, and Italy, there were manifestations of a neo-Romantic revolt against modernity and its urbanism, materialism, and instrumental rationality. Intermixed with this was an ominous strain of anti-Semitism that would later help to shape Fascism.

29 min
European Cultural and Intellectual Life

23: European Cultural and Intellectual Life

Intellectual trends sparked by Darwin, Freud, and Einstein are discussed, as is their enormous influence on culture and values. Among those discussed are Zola, Ibsen, Monet, Gauguin, Kandinsky, and other leaders of such literary and artistic movements as Naturalism, Impressionism, and Expressionism.

30 min
Social Norms, Social Strains in the Belle Epoque

24: Social Norms, Social Strains in the Belle Epoque

Between 1871 and 1914, Europe was at the height of its power in nearly every sense—financial, military, technological, and cultural. What were the attitudes about race, social class, and relations with the family and between the sexes that accompanied this period of predominance?

29 min
The International System, 1871–1890

25: The International System, 1871–1890

As chancellor at the helm of a newly united Germany, Bismarck maintained peace and political stability until his departure from office in 1890. What were the basic elements of the Iron Chancellor's diplomacy? How did he maintain Germany's position of hegemony on the continent?

30 min
The Breakdown of the International System and the Slide Toward War

26: The Breakdown of the International System and the Slide Toward War

Under the young Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany abandoned Bismarckian caution in favor of an ambitious, even aggressive, "Welpolitik" (global policy). What implications did this have for peace and stability in an age of alliance systems and arms race?

31 min
Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in the Multi-national Empires of Central and Eastern Europe

27: Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in the Multi-national Empires of Central and Eastern Europe

In the first decade of the new century, the polyglot Habsburg and Ottoman empires found themselves facing grave challenges from subject nationalities in the mountainous, volatile Balkan Peninsula and southeastern Europe. The crisis that erupted over Bosnia in 1908–09 was defused but not before furnishing a sinister hint of things to come.

31 min
The July Crisis and the Outbreak of War

28: The July Crisis and the Outbreak of War

After the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, a crisis consumed the Great Powers of Europe and led to war before the summer's end. Controversy continues to swirl around Germany's role in this chain of events, which is analyzed via an examination of each Power's goals and options.

30 min
The War to End All Wars—The Experience of the Trenches

29: The War to End All Wars—The Experience of the Trenches

The statesmen and peoples who went to war in August 1914 thought that it would all be over by Christmas. Instead, unimaginable killing and destruction dragged on for years—the 19th century died in the trenches. The military course of the war and its shocking character are described, with special attention to two gigantic battles of 1916: the Somme and Verdun.

32 min
The Treaty of Versailles and the Failed Peace

30: The Treaty of Versailles and the Failed Peace

We study the closing months of the war, the troubling circumstances surrounding the Armistice, and the controversial Treaty of Versailles. Did the Allies win the war only to lose the peace? What were the hopes of the nations gathered at Versailles, and what kind of international system did they intend to raise from the ashes?

29 min
The Bolshevik Revolution

31: The Bolshevik Revolution

What were the long-range causes that destabilized the Tsarist regime? How did Russia's involvement in the war contribute to these? Why did Kerensky's liberal Provisional Government lose its grip after less than a year? How did Lenin and his tiny band of Bolsheviks succeed in their drive to power?

31 min
Civil War and the Establishment of the Soviet State

32: Civil War and the Establishment of the Soviet State

Dr. Childers looks at the contest between Reds and Whites, repression and the consolidation of Bolshevik rule, the travails of socialism and the New Economic Policy, and the power struggle between Trotsky and Stalin over "permanent revolution" versus "socialism in one country."

31 min
The Soviet System Under Stalin

33: The Soviet System Under Stalin

With Lenin's death in 1924 and Stalin's triumph over Trotsky, the Soviet state was transformed. Forced industrialization and the coerced collectivization of agriculture were undertaken to serve the goal of "socialism in one country." By the close of the 1930s, Stalin and his secret police had created a regime based on bloody purges and pervasive terror.

28 min
Mussolini and the Emergence of Italian Fascism

34: Mussolini and the Emergence of Italian Fascism

Along with Communism, another political product of the Great War was Fascism. Fascist ideas had circulated since the 1890s, but it took the war to create the conditions for Fascist success. The first Fascist regime came to power in Italy in 1922 under Benito Mussolini, a socialist-turned-nationalist, former journalist, and political adventurer.

30 min
The Democracies in Crisis

35: The Democracies in Crisis

For France, for Britain, and for the fragile Weimar Republic in Germany, the interwar years were a time of turmoil, punctuated by recurrent economic crises and threats of political extremism emanating from both left and right. What were the origins of this rising tide of instability? How did it shape the course of events?

31 min
Hitler and the Rise of Nazism in Germany

36: Hitler and the Rise of Nazism in Germany

Although Mussolini and his Fascists preceded them, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' Party would become the most powerful and aggressive movement on the European radical right by the 1930s. Founded as a tiny faction in 1919, the Nazis came to power just 14 years later. Their novel campaign methods are examined, as are the reasons for the weakness of Weimar democracy.

31 min
Totalitarianism—The Third Reich

37: Totalitarianism—The Third Reich

An application and assessment of the concept of totalitarianism, first devised by Hannah Arendt to describe the Nazi and Soviet systems with their all-encompassing ideologies and use of state terror to remake the world. The moves through which Hitler consolidated his regime between 1933 and 1939 are dissected.

31 min
The Third Reich—Ideology and Domestic Policy

38: The Third Reich—Ideology and Domestic Policy

Trace the unfolding of the Nazis' ideological agenda, with special attention to the creation of "Volksgemeinschaft" (people's community) and the evolution of racial policy and anti-Semitism under the repressive regime of competing power centers that Hitler had brought into being.

32 min
Ideology and Hitler's Foreign Policy

39: Ideology and Hitler's Foreign Policy

What was Hitler's vision of the international system? His goals included Lebensraum (living space) in the East, the overthrow of the Treaty of Versailles, and the destruction of "Judeo-Bolshevism."

32 min
The Twenty-Year Crisis—The International System, 1919–1939

40: The Twenty-Year Crisis—The International System, 1919–1939

What were the underlying assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of the interwar state system? What drove the diplomacy of France and Britain, and why were they unable to restrain Hitler's Germany, a regime whose aggressiveness outstripped its actual power?

31 min
The Coming of War, 1939

41: The Coming of War, 1939

Dr. Childers examines the chain of events, beginning with the Munich Conference of autumn 1938, that came to include the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in August, and the German invasion of Poland and ensuing Anglo-French declaration of war at the beginning of September.

30 min
The Blitzkrieg, 1940–1941

42: The Blitzkrieg, 1940–1941

From the invasion of Poland in September 1939 until their check before Moscow in December 1941, Hitler's armies overran most of Europe using a revolutionary, mobile approach to warfare. France fell in just weeks, leaving Britain to stand alone under the indomitable Winston Churchill. In June 1941 came the invasion of Russia, the largest military operation in history, and the beginning of a savage, ideologically charged struggle with no rules and no quarter.

30 min
The Holocaust

43: The Holocaust

The Nazis' decision to perpetrate a murderous "final solution" to "the Jewish question" is dissected in its various phases from the invasion of Poland to the construction of the "Vernichtungslager" (extermination camps) in the East in 1942.

30 min
The World at War

44: The World at War

The final lecture on World War II examines its expansion into a truly global conflagration with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into the war against all the Axis Powers. Special attention is paid to the question of collaboration versus resistance, to the remarkable alliance that defeated Hitler, and the awful costs of war.

31 min
The Origins of the Cold War

45: The Origins of the Cold War

The British-American-Soviet coalition that destroyed the Third Reich began to come apart even before the surrender of Japan in August 1945. The inner dynamics and tensions of the alliance are analyzed, with special attention to developments in Eastern and Central Europe between 1944 and the Berlin Airlift of 1948–49.

30 min
The Division of Europe

46: The Division of Europe

Divided and devastated by war and its aftermath, Europe rose from the ashes in the 1950s as the nations of the West set an ambitious, even visionary, course. Riding a wave of economic recovery, they planned military, economic, and political institutions that would move Western Europe—and eventually, they hoped, the whole continent—toward unification.

30 min
The Collapse of Communism

47: The Collapse of Communism

A look at the postwar Soviet empire, including its East European satellites, with special emphasis on the unexpected and revolutionary events that brought down Communism, first in Poland and then throughout the Soviet world, between 1989 and 1991.

30 min
Conclusion—Europe on the Eve of the 21st Century

48: Conclusion—Europe on the Eve of the 21st Century

The 1990s have marked an end to a half-century of global and cold war, leaving an increasingly unified Europe more globally influential than it has been since 1939. Yet old questions like ethnic trouble in the Balkans and the role of Germany continue to haughty the continent. How should we assess Europe's present in light of its past? Can we hazard any predictions about its future?

29 min