Fall 2018


The First World War: Origin, Peace and Consequences (55+)

The First World War was the defining event of the 20th century. It determined the borders of 15 nations, a near impossible task in regions plagued by violent ethnic and religious conflicts. The resulting peace treaties had significant consequences—among them strong resentment in Germany, ethnic anomalies stemming from imperfect border arrangements, and the forced loss of Russia’s territory—factors that led to the Second World War only 20 years later. The Middle East, freed from Ottoman rule, still knows no peace. On the positive side, the war sacrifices of the British dominions, such as Canada, led to their full autonomy.

We’ll examine the origins of the war, the reasons why diplomacy failed and the treaties that restored peace.

Note: Some of the material is repeated from Major Peace Treaties and Their Consequences, from spring 2018.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Garrett H. Polman $115.00 0 Join Waitlist

What will I learn?

Week 1: European International Relations (1815-1914): Pandora’s Box?

Although the century from 1815-1914 was remarkable for few major wars, conflicts over the Balkans and the feared collapse of the Ottoman Empire were serious problems throughout this period. By 1914 the Great Powers had lost control of both.

Week 2: The July Crisis (1914)

On July 28, 1914, a month after the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne by a Serb terrorist, Austria declared war on Serbia. Within a week this escalated into the First World War.  We examine the (mis)steps and the failure of diplomacy involved.

Week 3: Peace Treaties for Europe (1919-21)

Many new countries emerged from the First World War and new borders were drawn. But border-making in a region as ethnically diverse as Eastern Europe, the absence of Russia at the Paris peace talks, and the Allies’ inability to agree on Germany’s war reparations were major obstacles and resulted in problematic peace provisions.

Week 4: Lines in the Sand? Creation of the Modern Middle East (1920-23)  

Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Greece, Zionists, Arabs and Kurds all vied for spoils from the Ottoman Empire. What emerged was a region that for a century has been plagued by foreign interventions, religious intolerance and violence. We examine the treaties that created the modern Middle East.

Week 5: The Road to the Second World War, Ethnic Expulsion and New Borders (1936-45)

Resentment over the problematic legacies of the 1919-21 peace arrangements were exploited by Hitler, later joined by Stalin aiming to regain lost Russian territory. After the Second World war, border changes and displacement of millions of Germans, Poles and other minorities led to more homogeneous populations in eastern Europe, but at the cost of huge human suffering​.

Week 6: From Dominion to Autonomy

The British Dominions, including Canada, had all contributed to the war effort and all made considerable sacrifice. Following the Balfour Declaration of 1926, enshrined in law in the Westminster Statute of 1931, the Dominions now enjoyed full sovereignty and would have their own foreign policy, their own embassies abroad and their own national citizenship.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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