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War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500–2000

Peer through the revealing lens of statecraft and view the political evolution of the European continent and the creation of the modern state system.
War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000 is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 84.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from history the way it should be taught once again, excellent presentation by Prof Liulevicius. he brings a different slant to various aspects of history, & never fails to enlighten & entertain.
Date published: 2023-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great coverage of obscure (??) but vital topic I've read widely in history. However I have not read "diplomatic history" or was even aware there was such a thing. I was probably over halfway through the course when the role of diplomacy started to sink in. Wow, turn out it's a big deal! Thank you professor Liulevicius.
Date published: 2023-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timely and relevant for current events The course provides valuable background understanding how historical approaches within diplomacy continue to affect current events. A must for any serious student of European affairs, and historical decisions that have current repercussions.
Date published: 2022-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer and content I have many Great Courses, especially on military history, from Ancients to World War II. I realized I didn't know as much as I wanted about the first World War. This course was exactly the level of detail I wanted, and the lecturer was excellent.
Date published: 2022-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Insights This 2007 course is one of Liulevicius' best. The video makes the rapidly changing map/name easier to follow. The Guidebook is over 240 pages, so few would need a Transcript. DIPLOMACY (Lecture 1=L1) as “the gentle art of letting someone else have it your way" may sound repulsive, but in the context of how governing bodies seek stability in ever-changing environs is a necessity (course Scope). Liulevicius frequently refers to Henry Kissinger's "Diplomacy" as essential reading. Liulevicius covers 3 diplomatic periods: from 1500 (the development of the European states); from 1815 (the balance of power period); and from 1914 (the balance breakdown and redefinition). L1 discusses the important differences between Realist and Idealist leadership. A few "TURNING POINTS": L3 discusses the Italian origin of “the first…purely secular states in (European) Christendom" and Machiavelli who became the founder of political science by concretely describing reality over idealism in seen in politics as: “human nature, pursuing its own interests” via “good laws and good arms". L5: The modern “state system" was invented by Louis XIII’s advisor Cardinal Richelieu (L4,5) who justified intervention against a German Catholic emperor making diplomacy's purpose the "reason of state" and "…religion a secondary consideration.” After the 30 Years War, via the "Peace of Westphalia in 1648, rulers enjoyed superiority in all matters, both political and ecclesiastical” (L6). The Baroque fascination with power began with Louis XIV "I am the state" for whom "Louisiana" (from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico at that time) was named. The 18th century "Gospel of Enlightenment" implied freedom of thought AND religion (L10). Unfortunately, Kant's “permanent peace" and Montesqueiu/Voltaire’s "balance of power” fell short of reality. De Vattel's 1758 "Law of Nations” envisioned “equal nations serving a common (enlightened) self-interest" but failed. The first global war was (L10) the Seven Years War (of which our French and Indian War was a side show). The French Revolution kicked off nationalism (L11) and produced Tallyrand’s memorable quote: “Treason is a question of dates”. L12: From Metternich on, the role of “diplomat” appears more familiar. As the Foreign Minister of Austria, he urged princes to unite in solidarity against liberalism and nationalism (L13) at the Congress of Vienna. It led to a cooperative “Concert of Europe System" that avoided war for years. The first modern politician was Napoleon III (L16) because of his ability to “manipulate both the masses and public opinion.” It was he, in fact, who undermined Vienna, without a replacement plan and that, predictably, led to his ruin. L18: the Crimean War was a historical dividing line over control of the Turkish straits: Russia and France wanted them. The Ottomans had them. The Charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale were features, but the Concert of Europe was doomed. L19 Italy doesn’t become united in 1861 leading the Piedmont diplomat Cavour to quip: “Now that we have created Italy, we must first create Italians.” L20 and 21 are a masterful summary of Otto von Bismark. L21 “In 1875 European colonies were less than 10% of Africa” – by 1985, 95%. From L22 on more modern history gives fewer gestalt moments but are worth your time. L29: Hitler hid his agenda behind rhetoric of “peace, equality, and self-determination”. L30: the Soviet Union lost 20 million to Stalin’s terror. CONCLUSION: The massive course plainly shows the complex machinations that created the world we know today. Keep this course’ Guidebook as a reference for what really happened among nations and why. Most importantly, the course distinctly shows that political systems are not to be taken for granted. As Ben Franklin so famously said about us: “A republic, if you can keep it".
Date published: 2022-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A diplomatic angle This course is a good mixture of history as such, and history of diplomatic activity throughout centuries. The historic background makes the course clear, logical and VERY educational. Also very depressing, considering how the history repeats itself. The presenter is enthusiastic and clear.
Date published: 2022-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A tremendous course I usually watch Great Courses through my subscription to the Great Courses Plus app but will buy older courses not available on the app. I had watched a number of courses by Dr. Liulevicius (History of Eastern Europe, The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin, and Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao) and found this one. This course is absolutely stunning and I think the best of the ones I have already watched by Dr. L.. Audio was perfect as Dr. L's passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge for/of the subject just leap out from the recording! For a novice learner (prior to 1900) he combined an excellent but concise background to the historical events and then discussed the diplomatic aspects of the event(s) including behind the scenes negotiations as well as discussing any new diplomatic tools or methods developed/used. I raced through these lectures in 2-3 days and at one point had gone from Lecture 16 through 31 late into the night and had to force myself to call it a night and get some sleep. They are that good! Some I had to play again in order to understand and squeeze every nugget from the lecture. The coverage of the Thirty Years War was excellent as was the discussion of the Peace of Westphalia, Congress of Vienna and the ongoing theme/failure of the Concert of Vienna during the 19th century. The post- World War II discussion into the Cold War was excellent. I would be interested in Dr. L ding a specific course focusing in detail on the Cold War, especially the history/effects on individual countries of Eastern Europe. Lister to tis course and learn!
Date published: 2022-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Series of Talks What a wonderful series of talks! Prof Liulevicius has a sensationally good command of his subject matter, an unusually good knack for communicating and delivered a most-exciting and satisfying experience for me. I most-wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.
Date published: 2021-10-09
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In War


Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

To study the deepest impulses in human nature, we see the lure of wealth and conquest, the deep-seated urge for fame and glory, the quest for higher ends, a basic human determination.


University of Tennessee

Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war

By This Professor

Turning Points in Modern History
A History of Eastern Europe
The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
The Secret World of Espionage
Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao
Foundations of Diplomacy

01: Foundations of Diplomacy

This lecture defines key concepts—such as power, reason of state, and balance of power—and introduces the debates that repeatedly resonate in international history, including the competing schools of Realism and Idealism and the question of who or what ultimately steers the foreign policy choices of states.

32 min
Europe in 1500—Ancient and New Monarchies

02: Europe in 1500—Ancient and New Monarchies

We set the historical stage of early modern Europe, including Europe's encounter with a wider world in the form of trade, diplomacy, and an expanding Ottoman Empire; the challenge to older authority represented by the "new monarchies"; and the emergence of an embryonic diplomacy.

31 min
Renaissance Statecraft in Italy

03: Renaissance Statecraft in Italy

The city-states of Renaissance Italy pioneer patterns of modern diplomacy that will be of lasting significance to this day, including representation by resident ambassadors. The balance of power among these states lasts from the 1454 Peace of Lodi until the invasion by outside powers in 1494, a year so important that some historians date the modern age from it.

29 min
Religion and Empire

04: Religion and Empire

From 1500 to 1618, the battle to rule the European continent begins to shape the modern European state system. We look at the intense rivalry between the Habsburg dynasty of Austria and Spain and the Valois royal family of France, as well as the challenge of the Protestant Reformation.

28 min
The Thirty Years' War

05: The Thirty Years' War

The Thirty Years' War rages across the center of Europe from 1618 to 1648, intertwining explosive elements of religion and politics and drawing in an ever-increasing number of major powers. The resulting exhaustion produces an epochal change in how international politics is understood and practiced.

31 min
The Peace of Westphalia, 1648—A New Era

06: The Peace of Westphalia, 1648—A New Era

The Thirty Years' War ends with the first of the great diplomatic peace conferences of modern times, creating the European system of sovereign states, setting the stage for the rise of France as a superpower, and establishing new concepts of international law.

30 min
French Superpower

07: French Superpower

France takes on the role of the strongest European power, and neighboring kingdoms seize on coalition diplomacy to contain it, asserting a European balance of power that would be ratified in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

33 min
The Great Powers

08: The Great Powers

We survey the other great powers of the day from 1648 to 1740, focusing first on the evolving profession of the diplomat and then on the fortunes of the Dutch Republic, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Spain, tracing the distinctive styles and approaches of each of these states to the dangerous international scene.

31 min
Northern Earthquake

09: Northern Earthquake

From 1648 to the 1770s, political convulsions in northern and eastern Europe bring new dynamic players—Sweden, the Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania, and Russia—into the European state system as additional factors in diplomatic calculation.

33 min
18th-Century Competition

10: 18th-Century Competition

We explore how the paradoxes of the Age of Enlightenment affect international relations. On the one hand, Enlightenment thinkers craft plans for a permanent peace based on reason, tolerance, and international law. At the same time, military and diplomatic competition achieve a new level of cynicism.

32 min

11: Revolutions

The era of the American and French Revolutions transforms the European continent. Nationalism and mass politics are unleashed, and the French Revolution of 1789 touches off a quarter-century of war in Europe that will reorder politics and redraw the diplomatic map.

31 min
Napoleon's Glory and Defeat

12: Napoleon's Glory and Defeat

This lecture follows the Emperor Napoleon's remarkable career to his ultimate defeat in 1815. Bestriding the European mainland, Napoleon establishes both his Grand Empire and a system of allied states linked in the Continental System, even as guerrilla war in Spain portends trouble.

33 min
The Congress of Vienna

13: The Congress of Vienna

The Congress gathers the powers that had triumphed over Napoleon (joined by the restored French kingdom) to construct a new order founded on conservative solidarity and the values of legitimacy and opposition to revolution. This new "Concert of Europe" will enjoy remarkable success for close to a century.

32 min
The Concert of Europe System

14: The Concert of Europe System

We focus on the operations of the Concert of Europe from 1815 to 1848, with special attention to the periodic international congresses convened under its auspices and their determined efforts to stamp out what they considered the dark and dangerous forces of Nationalism and Liberalism.

31 min
Eastern and Western Questions

15: Eastern and Western Questions

We examine the problems posed by events and dynamics at the margins of the European arena from 1815 to 1848, including the fate of the Ottoman Empire, U.S. resistance to an expansion of the balance of power system across the Atlantic, and the beginnings of renewed European Imperialism overseas.

30 min
The Challenge of 1848 and Napoleon III

16: The Challenge of 1848 and Napoleon III

We cover the period from 1848 to 1870 and examine two diplomatic surprises: the lack of widespread war caused by the revolutions of 1848—in contrast to the French Revolution—and the rise to power of a new Napoleon, an enigmatic figure who champions Nationalism and Liberalism while hatching diplomatic conspiracies to redraw Europe's map.

31 min
Britain's Empire

17: Britain's Empire

This lecture examines the waxing and waning of the British Empire over the course of the 19th century, including its industrial and economic might, its liberal advocacy of international free trade and the abolition of slavery, and its fateful dominion over India.

33 min
The Crimean War

18: The Crimean War

The Crimean War of 1853–1856 reflects even deeper tensions and diplomatic problems in the European order. We see how Russia's defeat batters the Concert of Europe and its vision of conservative solidarity and sets the stage for dramatic changes.

29 min
Italian Unification

19: Italian Unification

The 1858–1861 unification of Italy as a nation-state fulfills a long-standing dream. But the achievement also relies on changes on the international scene and assistance from France, skillfully engineered by Count Camillo di Cavour, the prime minister of Piedmont.

31 min
German Unification

20: German Unification

The 1862–1871 unification of the German Empire—steered by the Prussian "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck—upsets political certainties. Will this new power at the center of the continent anchor peace or disrupt stability?

31 min
The Bismarckian System

21: The Bismarckian System

Bismarck's challenge is to reconcile the new empire's neighbors to the fact of the "German revolution" and to present Germany as a guarantor of stability. We follow the building, functioning, and eventual breakdown of the Bismarckian system of diplomacy from 1871 to 1894.

32 min
High Imperialism

22: High Imperialism

The European powers launch a scramble for empire, cruelly carving up entire continents. We examine the wave of High Imperialism from the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the "Scramble for Africa" to 1898, with France and Britain on the brink of a colonial war.

31 min
The Reconfigured World of 1900

23: The Reconfigured World of 1900

New alignments emerge, with decisive changes in diplomatic patterns. Telling trends include popular movements for peace while Europe arms on land and sea, Japan's defeat of the Russian Empire, greater American presence in international venues, and increasing regional crises.

34 min
Balkan Instability

24: Balkan Instability

This lecture, covering the years 1900 to 1913, returns to the long-standing "Eastern Question" concerning the future of the Ottoman territories. With the Turkish realm perceived as being in terminal decline, the question has now reached a critical stage.

27 min
The Outbreak of World War I

25: The Outbreak of World War I

The outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 is the object of one of the biggest debates in modern history. How did European diplomats and statesmen bring the continent to the brink and then plunge it into an ever-widening war?

31 min
World War I—Total War

26: World War I—Total War

World War I, with its all-encompassing mobilization of mass armies, entire economies, domestic societies, and vitally needed allies, produces extraordinary changes, including the overturning of long-standing diplomatic patterns, the collapse of four empires, and the emergence of two future superpowers: the United States and Soviet Russia.

31 min
The Paris Settlement

27: The Paris Settlement

After four years of devastating war, the victors of World War I gather in Paris in 1919 to draft a comprehensive settlement and create a new international order, replacing that of the Congress of Vienna. The controversial results will alter the balance of the century.

31 min
Interwar Europe

28: Interwar Europe

At the dawn of the postwar decade, Europe has a new map, and great hopes have been vested in the League of Nations. Yet relations between France and Germany remain tense, the new states of eastern Europe are arguing over borders, and the United States has withdrawn from European politics.

32 min
Europe into Crisis

29: Europe into Crisis

The Great Depression of 1929 and the shift toward Authoritarianism and Fascism in European politics move the continent toward another disaster. We track the rise to power of Mussolini in Fascist Italy and Hitler in Nazi Germany and the calculations of Stalin in the Soviet Union.

30 min
World War II

30: World War II

We examine the diplomatic bombshell that paved the way to war—the Nazi–Soviet Pact of August 1939; outline Hitler's ambitions and their culmination in his invasion of his Soviet ally; and discuss the complicated alliance among the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.

32 min
Aftermath and Peace Plans

31: Aftermath and Peace Plans

This lecture devotes special attention to the immediate aftermath of World War II, including the lack of a final, comprehensive settlement; the founding of the United Nations; the Potsdam Conference; Stalin's reimposition of harsh personal powers; and growing tensions among the victors.

32 min
The Cold War Begins

32: The Cold War Begins

In the key years from 1946 to 1949, the split between former allies—the United States and Great Britain on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other—widens, and the so-called "Cold War" begins, bringing with it a distinctive brand of crisis diplomacy.

32 min
Blocs and Decolonization

33: Blocs and Decolonization

We look at two key processes from 1949 to 1956. The first is decolonization, with Europe's powers losing most of their once-huge imperial holdings. The other is the increasing Cold War polarization of Europe, configured into the military alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

31 min
The European Project

34: The European Project

In response to a half-century of war and tension, Europe's leaders depart from the competitive politics of statehood inaugurated at the Treaty of Westphalia to take a new direction. The European project of unity from 1957 onward will culminate in today's European Union.

34 min
The Fall of the Wall

35: The Fall of the Wall

With unexpected rapidity, the Communist states of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself collapse near the end of the 20th century. This lecture, covering the years 1980–1991, discusses the deeper causes leading to this startling transformation.

28 min
Post-Cold War to the Present

36: Post-Cold War to the Present

This lecture covers the years from 1991 to the beginning of the present century, including the expansion of NATO and the European Union, renewed Balkan violence, and Russia's search for its new international role. We end by considering several questions—including whether Europe is now entering a fundamentally new era of statecraft, or if the historical dynamics of war, peace, and power still apply.

32 min