Over the course of the Cold War, the city of Berlin was frequently at the centre of global tensions and a potential front line should the superpower rivalry descend into actual war. This course utilizes the city of Berlin as a laboratory in which to examine the origins, nature, and conclusion of the Cold War that defined international relations between 1945 and 1991. We analyze the Allied occupation of the city following the Nazi defeat, the Berlin blockade and airlift that helped solidify the divisions between East and West. Next, we will examine the workers’ uprising of 1953 that provoked a Soviet military response. The following sessions will deal with the emigration crisis of the late 1950s that led the Soviets to first threaten a military takeover of the city and eventually to construct the Berlin Wall. Finally, we will look at the fall of the wall and the subsequent reunification of Berlin and Germany.
Field trips to important Cold War sites will permit students to gain a deeper appreciation of how the Cold War changed Berlin, and how events in Berlin influenced the wider international struggle. In order to place the interests and goals of the superpowers in context, we will also discuss the ways in which the Cold War rivalry affected Europe as a whole, as well as Asia and Latin America. Attention will be given to the role of international organizations such as the United Nations in world affairs, and the changes brought about by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In this way, we will examine the roots of contemporary crises. Students will gain an understanding of the recent past, which will help equip them to evaluate the current and emerging international order.
Everyone is welcome to this course. It is ideal for students who have background in modern international relations history and supplements courses on the world wars or global politics/history. However, the course is designed for those without such training who have an interest in international relations. Students planning careers in diplomacy, journalism, or academia will find this course especially beneficial.
This course uses a lecture format with seminars, as well as field trips around Berlin. There is much to cover in a short period of time. Regular attendance will be essential to keep up with the volume of material and pace of the course. As participatory seminars make up a sizeable portion of the overall grade you will be expected to have completed all the readings, integrate them with lectures, and come ready to discuss the topics.
Scholarly readings are an essential component of any course and this will be no different. A course reader will be made available. All the seminars will involve chapters from a book by a renowned academic in the field. They will also entail the reading of primary documents on various events in the Cold War put together in an edited text. This will provide students an opportunity to be “closer” to some of the dramatic events covered in the course and be exposed to the true craft of historians.