HST2027: Guilty Men? European Leaders and the Origins of the Second World War

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader:

Professor Bob Moore


Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.

Module Summary

The origins of the Second World War have been a matter of sustained historiographical debate since 1945. This module introduces students to some of the key sources pertinent to the discussion through a series of linked lecture workshops and seminars – highlighting the major diplomatic, political and economic issues that framed European relations in the 1930s and also how the personalities involved served to shape the conduct of events.


This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to the in-depth study of the debates on the origins of the Second World War.
  • Develop your understanding of source criticism, with regard to textual, visual, and architectural sources.
  • Familiarise students with a variety of historiographical approaches (including political, urban and cultural history).
  • Promote your ability to write informed and cogent essays in clear and grammatical English.
  • Encourage students to develop their confidence and ability in presenting their ideas orally.


The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce you to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime you on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding your private study. Seminars will provide opportunities for you to present your ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving you in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism.


The module is assessed by:

  1. A 2,500-word formative essay of detailed source analysis (33%), which will allow students to advance their understanding of certain thematic aspects of the module through an exercise of independent source criticism, thus helping students to develop skills of analysis and argument, and to improve their writing skills.
  2. An unseen written examination (50%) will require candidates to demonstrate that they have absorbed and understood the material and that they are able to compose a structured argument and analyse primary sources in clear prose under pressure of time.
  3. Oral presentations and participation in seminars (17%), in which students will demonstrate their team-working and analytical skills and their ability to analyse different types of primary source material in their historical context.

Selected Reading

To follow.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate the ability to, the capability for:

  • An advanced knowledge and understanding of the origins of the Second World War, identifying significant historical issues and engaging with historiographical debates.
  • The ability to recognise, evaluate and analyse a wide variety of primary source materials (both textual and visual).
  • An ability to write commentaries on source materials under pressure of time.
  • The ability to use a critical knowledge of primary sources to formulate independent conclusions, both orally and in clear, grammatical prose.
  • The experience of presenting material orally in seminars, exchanging views with the tutor and other students.