Summer 2020 - HIST 420 D100

Themes in Russian Imperial History (4)

War & Peace Tolstoy & Napoleon

Class Number: 3652

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 11 – Aug 10, 2020: Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



An examination of how the Russian Empire grew, was maintained, and came to an end, if it did end, through a study of imperial and colonial policies and practices and the responses to these by the area's diverse peoples. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 420 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


This course will explore the military campaigns waged between Imperial Russia and Napoleon’s French Empire during 1812. The focus of the course will be a comparative analysis of how the conflict is presented in Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace as opposed to the work of academic historians. While doing so, it will consider the impact of the 1812 war on Russian and greater European politics and society.

This course is scheduled as a four-hour weekly seminar. While the course instructor will offer requisite guidance during class meetings, the seminar will be driven by student participation.


  • Seminar participation 25%
  • Reading responses (three) 15%
  • Oral presentation 10%
  • Essay draft (July 30th) 10%
  • Essay (August 6th) 40%



Russia against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, by Dominic Lieven (Viking Books, 2010).

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. (Vintage Books, 2008).

Registrar Notes:


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Please note that all teaching at SFU in summer term 2020 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.