HST6083: Borders in 20th Century Europe

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Spring)

Module Leader: Dr Andrew Tompkins

Module Summary

Borders within and surrounding Europe have moved repeatedly throughout history, but rarely so frequently or so violently as during the 20th century. This class examines how processes of bordering and de-bordering since the First World War have shaped European states and peoples. It explores notions of territoriality, the construction and dismantling of borders, migration and forced migration, subversive social practices and ambiguous identities in borderlands, and border security. Case studies covered in class and in further readings focus primarily on East-Central Europe, including the former Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, German-Polish borderlands, divided Cold War Germany, and the European Union.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Familiarise students with the history of East-Central Europe since the First World War;
  2. Foster critical thinking about territoriality as well as about the construction of borders and nation-states;
  3. Introduce students to ideas and concepts from the interdisciplinary field of border studies;
  4. Compare approaches to European borders at multiple levels of analysis (international politics, state policies, borderland practices).

Learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the causes, consequences, and significance of major border changes in 20th century Europe (Aims 1, 2);
  2. Analyse and critically evaluate concepts and approaches in border studies (A3, 4);
  3. Demonstrate confidence in expressing ideas verbally, both in individual seminar contributions and group work (A1, 2, 3, 4);
  4. Advance interpretations and supporting evidence in clear and persuasive prose (A1, 2, 3, 4).


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five two-hour classes. The first seminar will introduce you to the concepts and historiography of borders (LOs 1, 2). Subsequent seminars will involve individual and group work on case studies from East-Central Europe (LOs 1, 3), with a final session focused on more recent developments and insights from contemporary border studies (LOs 2, 3). You will, in addition, write a book review as formative assessment and have individual tutorial contact with the module leader to discuss your written work for this module (LO4).



Assessment methods
Assessment Type % of final mark Length
Book review Formative n/a  
Coursework Summative 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a 3,000-word paper on a topic agreed with the tutor. The essay will be expected to include discussion of the key historiographical debates surrounding the topic and the use and critical analysis of appropriate secondary literature and primary sources. You will, in addition, write a book review as formative assessment (LOs 1, 2, 3, 4).


Selected reading

  • Coming soon



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