The Age of Total War – Global Conflict in the Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991

The Twentieth Century witnessed the globalization and standardization of everything from the way human beings eat (think: McDonald's) to the way they kill each other (think: nuclear weapons). This course takes a closer look at the most destructive conflicts known to man: World War I and World War II, and tries to answer the following (and related) questions: what was different about WWI and WWII compared to all the other conflicts in history? Why did they grow out of a local dispute into a conflagration that consumed every major country in the world? Why has World War III not happened? Is it likely to happen in the Twenty-First Century? Do nuclear weapons help to prevent wars or to the contrary? What was fascism and might it return? What about “the global Cold War” – was it another global conflict that simply has not been registered as such in Europe?

This course will offer an introduction to fields of study and topics such as: international relations; political, diplomatic and military history; balance of power and system of alliances; imperialism and nationalism; great power and superpower confrontation; genocide and ethnic cleansing; clash of ideologies and civilizations; religion as a source of tension; conflict prevention and resolution; international organizations (League of Nations, United Nations) and peacekeeping. We will think about the differences between global versus localized and regional conflicts, and how the former get contained to prevent escalation into something bigger, both historically and today. We will study both original historical sources from the time as well as read the greatest works of international relations theorists, from Clausewitz, through Henry Kissinger to Joseph Nye and Niall Ferguson. This course, taught by a historian, will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to critically evaluate current world affairs, independently and from a historical angle, a perspective that many commentators in the world media now lack and badly need.

Tomasz Blusiewicz:

Tomasz Blusiewicz is a historian of international relations, who focuses on economic cooperation in Eurasia in the second half of the 20th century. Tomasz’s doctoral thesis, defended at Harvard in 2017, is entitled Return of the Hanseatic League or how the Baltic Sea Trade Washed Away the Iron Curtain, 1945-1991. In it, he develops a transnational perspective on the Baltic region, from Hamburg in the West to Leningrad in the East, and highlights the role played by Hanseatic port cities such as Rostock, Gdańsk, Kaliningrad or Riga, all of which served as "windows to the world" linking communist-controlled Europe with the globalizing world. Tomasz’s collegiate alma mater is the University of Chicago, from which he graduated in 2011 with a double BA in history and philosophy.