Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Description

This course will conduct a comparative study of the grand strategies of the great powers (Britain, France, Germany and Russia) competing for mastery of Europe from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Grand strategy is the collection of political and military means and ends with which a state attempts to achieve security. We will examine strategic developments in the years preceding World Wars I and II, and how those developments played themselves out in these wars. The following questions will guide the inquiry: What is grand strategy and what are its critical aspects? What recurring factors have exerted the greatest influence on the strategies of the states selected for study? How may the quality of a grand strategy be judged? What consequences seem to follow from grand strategies of different types? A second theme of the course is methodological. We will pay close attention to how comparative historical case studies are conducted.

Course Requirements

Two papers based on the class reading will be required. These are to be critical essays. They shall be no longer than 7 pages; no creative line-spacing, margins, or character formats please. A comprehensive take-home final exam will account for 50% of the grade. In the early weeks of the term about half of classroom time is lecture and half is discussion. As the term progresses, an increasing percentage of class time will be devoted to discussion. Participation in classroom discussion is much appreciated; silence is noted.

The papers are meant to be think pieces, but not day-dreaming pieces. The first paper covers the foundational conceptual material of the course. This paper could take one or more arguments apart and examine them for logical consistency, completeness, clarity, and evidence. It could compare and contrast two or more theoretical arguments according to several of the aforementioned criteria. It could apply one or more theories to a substantive problem already well known to the student (and thus requiring no further research), as a vehicle toward a critique of the theoretical arguments. The second paper covers the substantive material on World War I. Thus it should involve application of the theoretical and conceptual material from part I of the course, to some of the world war I case material. The most self organizing and straightforward approach would test one or more theories against some of this case material. Extra reading is permitted but not required for this paper. Students should review the topics of these papers with me. The best way to do so is to send me a brief one paragraph summary of the plan.