Spring 2016 - HIST 338 J100

World War II (4)

Class Number: 4199

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    HCC 2510, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 19, 2016
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    HCC 2270, Vancouver

  • Instructor:

    Niall MacKenzie
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 225.



An introduction to the history of the origins and course of the second world war.


The Second World War was the defining conflict of the contemporary world. Its crimes continue to haunt our headlines; its legacy of decolonization has redrawn borders and redistributed populations; it produced the American superpower, the state of Israel, and the People’s Republic of China; its memory is daily invoked by demagogues of diverse nationalities and political persuasions. The United Nations, constructed in the War’s aftermath, is still the principal forum for the working out of international differences, including, now, a crisis relating to “displaced persons” - another phrase, and concept of international law, which we owe to the Second World War.

Our work in HIST 338 is going to open some unfamiliar perspectives on this famous chapter of history. African and Asian military theatres, rarely noticed in Hollywood and 11 November commemoration, will be restored to their full significance; morally questionable decisions by the Allies, rarely brought up in our self-adoring historiography and popular memory, will be debated in class. As we trace the high-level narrative of political and military events, from the War’s origins on the treaty tables of Paris and the tracks of the South Manchuria Railway to its uneasy resolutions in Potsdam, Nuremberg, and the USS Missouri, we are going to stay mindful of the strategic objectives, logistical constraints, and unforeseen contingencies which shaped that narrative. More attention, however, will be given to the experience of civilian groups caught up in the struggle - those who found themselves in war zones or under occupation, from the Channel Islands to Polynesia, and those who, even if they never heard a bomber overhead, found, in the shifting basis of a national economy, in the transformation of sexual and racial attitudes, or in the success of an anti-colonial movement, that the War had changed their lives, too.


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Reading quizzes 15%
  • Period film analysis 10%
  • Debate presentation 10%
  • Research paper 15%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final exam 20%



Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, trans. Philip Boehm (Picador 2006) 978-0312426118

Antony Beevor, The Second World War (Back Bay Books 2013) 978-0316023757

Further readings will be made available online or put on reserve in the Belzberg Library.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html