2016 / 17


Contemporary History

Grau en Relacions Internacionals








Core group


The course seeks to provide a theoretical and chronological framework of the main historical milestones and events in the 20th century and conclude with an introduction to the key geopolitical forces in the 21st century.


In light of this, the course is organized in three chronological modules which depict a “brief 20th century”, inasmuch as it begins with the outbreak of the Great War, and it closes with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.


While the course does not disregard the factual contents of the subject, it also seeks to interpret the events in order to give an insight to the evolution of the 20th century and its transition to the 21 century.


Therefore the course is divided into two modules which have got specific goals aimed at International Relations students and which are detailed in the content section.


Learning Unit 1: The interpretation of recent contemporariness (Prof. Xavier Díez)


To know the main interpretative models that are prevalent in contemporary history and the conceptions that support them. The models are the end of history, conceived by Fukuyama, which considers the neoliberal model as the pinnacle of historical evolution, civilization hostility as a change agent, the Keynesian vision, and the defense of social-democracy based on a feeling of discontentment at the onset of 21st century as stated by Tony Judt.



Learning Unit 2: Globalization: live analysis of global transformations (Prof. Xavier Díez)


To know the current historical processes, related to complex processes of globalization, and the deep transformations that they bring about at different levels —social, work-related, philosophical, cultural, economic—, and their impact on the public and private sphere.


1.     To learn how to apply the specific methods and approaches in history to the course topics.

2.     To grasp the complex nature of international relations based on history.


The above competences will be assessed based on the criteria and instruments detailed below.

It is expected that students achieve the following learning outcomes at the end of the course:

1. To identify the main questions of Contemporary History in order to have a global outlook and to pinpoint the topics related to international relations.   


Core group:


Module 1. The interwar world (1914-1945)

1. La Great War (1914-1918)

2. The post-war world (1918-1929)

3. Mass society

4. The outset of the Soviet era: from Lenin to Stalin (1917-1927)

5. USA: from the Wall Street crash of 1929 to the New Deal

6. New and old nationalisms: fascism and Nazism

7. New and old nationalisms (2): Stalin’s USSR and Hirohito’s Japan

8. The Second World War (1939-1945)


Module 1 reflects on the configuration of the world in the second half of the 20th century based on questions that are nowadays up-to-date (because of the new economic depression and the crisis of representative democracies):

* The notion of the Great World as the hinge between the Ancient Regime society and the onset of the capitalist era (following Arno J. Mayer’s thesis).

* The global impact of the first economic crisis.

* The downfall of the system of international alliances.

* The crisis in parliamentarism and the onset of political organizations and mass movements (fascisms and communism).

* The perception of the 1914-1945 period as a prolonged European civil war.



Module 2. The Cold War world (1945-1989)

9. Origins of the Cold War (1944-1948)

10. The apotheosis of the Cold War (1948-1953)

11.  Decolonization and the birth of the Third World

12. From Cold War to a peaceful coexistence (1953-1973)

13. Origins of the Second Cold War (1973-1979)

14. From the Second Cold War to the demise of the Soviet bloc (1979-1989)


Module 2 examines the evolution of the bipolar world and the complexity of breaking the stability.

* The emergence of a bipolar world, and the transfer of conflicts to the periphery of the two superpowers (US and USSR).

* The creation of a structure of spheres of influences that were hard to dismantle, as the cases of Salvador Allende in Chile, the colonels’ dictatorship in Greece or Italian politics exemplify.

* Decolonization and its impact. The Non-Aligned Movement.

* The outbreak of the global anti-imperialism discourse: the case of Cuba and Guevarism.

* The limits of “the balance of terror”, in which the Soviet Union loses the war race in the so-called “Star Wars”.


From the “end of history” to the “clash of civilizations” (1992-2001)

15. From the Gulf War to 9/11 (1990-2001): from euphoria to dysphoria

*  The First Gulf War: US and the New World Order. The role of the US as the world’s police force and its limitations.

* The failure of Perestroika: the end of the USSR and the return of Russia: the failure of real socialism and the end of the bipolar world.

*  The European Union: the problem of creating an alternative to the US.

*  The emergence of Asia:  Japan, China and the Asian tigers

*  The problems of Africa.

*  The 9/11 attacks in 2011 as the trigger for the theories of confrontation (Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”), the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism as a political actor, and the conversion of anti-Semitism into Islamophobia in Europe.


Learning Unit 1: The interpretation of contemporaneity

  1. Interpretation based on conservative Anglo-Saxon thought: the paradigm of liberal democracy and market economy: the “end of history” (Francis Fukuyama)
  2. Western political and military hegemony (Robert Kagan)
  3. Assessment of multiculturalism and the clash of civilizations (Samuel P. Huntington)
  4. The Neo-Keynesian and social democratic interpretation of the current crisis
  5. Assessment of unruled capitalism (Joseph Stiglitz)
  6. Assessment of the social effects of neoliberalism (Tony Judt)


Learning Unit 2: Globalization: analysis of global transformations

  1. Basic features of processes of economic, social and cultural internationalization.
  2. Assessment of the politics of global economy (Stiglitz), the transformation of the paradigms in society (Ulrich Beck), in work (Richard Sennet), and geopolitical transformations (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) and their impact on the individual sphere (Zygmunt Bauman)
  3. Interpretation and analysis of globalization: definitions and features of contemporary processes of globalization. The arguments for and against. The shock doctrine. (Naomi Klein)


Core group

* Individual exercises in class about the course topics.

* Individual exercises outside class about the course topics.

* Final exam.


Learning Units

* Reading, analysis and debate of three compulsory readings about opposed views on the recent past.

* Exercises in and outside class about current international news stories related to the course contents.

* Presentations and forums about the topics dealt with in class.  


Students must pass the different parts of the course separately. The final grade is based on continuous assessment which takes into account the following assessed items and percentages. 


Core group:


Assessment will follow the criteria below:

* 60% of the final grade is based on the core group.

* The above 60% is divided into: 40% (final exam); 20% (individual exercises, reading, presentations and class debates).

*Students must submit at least 70% of the class exercises to have the right to take the final exam. If a student does not fulfil this criterion, he/she will not be able to take the final exam, and therefore he/she will fail the course.

* 40% of the final grade is based on the two LUs (each of them is worth 20% of the final mark).

* The assessment can be carried out through exercises or tests, depending on the teacher responsible. In any case, the course can only be passed provided 70% of the LU exercises or activities have been completed.

* To pass the course, the student must pass both the core group and the LUs. If he/she fails one of the parts, he/she has to re-take only that part in the second sitting.

* Only students who have submitted at least 70% of the exercises can sit the final exam in the second sitting. If the student does not pass the part that he/she has failed in the second sitting, he/she will fail the whole subject and will have to re-register for the course in the next academic year—for which no grades will be saved.


Core group

First sitting

* Exam 50%

* Assessment of individual exercises 50%


Second sitting

The grade for the individual exercises will be kept and the exam will be re-taken.


Learning Unit 1:

First sitting:

*Both LUs will be assessed in a comprehensive way and based on three exercises:

*Exercise 1: analysis of a current international conflict from a historical perspective. It is a group activity that will result into an audiovisual documentary (10-15 minutes long). This exercise is worth 40% of the grade for the LUs.

*Exercise 2: Individual participation in a virtual forum about some aspects of globalization. This exercise is worth 30% of the grade for the LUs.  

*Exercise 3: An exam about the compulsory readings, worth 30% of the grade for the LUs.


Second sitting

Given the global nature of the activity, students will repeat exercise 1 individually.


Half of the grade for LU 1 is the average mark resulting from the tests on the texts commented in class, and the other 50% is based on a comprehensive course summary. Because assessment is based on attendance, if a student does not attend the sessions, he/she cannot be evaluated for LU 1 and no longer has the right to pass the course.

If the student fails LU 1, the above percentages are preserved in the second sitting.


Learning Unit 2:


First sitting:

See indications for LU 1 above.


Second sitting:

See indications for LU 1 above.


Half of the grade for LU 2 is the average mark resulting from the tests on the texts commented in class, and the other 50% is based on a comprehensive course summary. Because assessment is based on attendance, if a student does not attend the sessions, he/she cannot be evaluated for LU 2 and no longer has the right to pass the course.

If the student fails LU 2, the above percentages are preserved in the second sitting.


VERY IMPORTANT: Both the core group (theory) and LUs must be passed separately to pass the course. In the second sitting, the student will have the right to take only the part which he/she failed in the fist sitting (following the same percentages), but he/she cannot sit the part which was not taken in the first sitting. In the latter case, the student will fail the entire course and will have to re-take it in the following academic year. 


The following criteria will be considered to evaluate the different assessment criteria:


  1. To demonstrate the knowledge of the evolution of the world from 1914 to 2001.
  2. The student will show the above knowledge by completing the final written exam and also the various essays throughout the course, both in the core group and the LU. 


Core group:


FONTANA, Josep, Por el bien del imperio. Una historia del mundo desde 1945. Pasado y presente, Barcelona, 2011

FUENTES, Juan Francisco; LA PARRA LÓPEZ, Emilio. Historia universal del siglo XX. De la Primera Guerra Mundial al ataque de las Torres Gemelas (Síntesis, Madrid, 2008).

HOBSBAWM, Eric J.. Historia del siglo XX (Crítica, Barcelona, 1995).

JUDT, Tony, Postguerra (Taurus, Madrid, 2006).

TOOZE, Adam. El diluvio. La Gran Guerra y la reconstrucción del orden mundial (1916-1931) (Crítica, Barcelona, 2016).

VEIGA, Francisco. El desequilibrio como orden. Una historia de la posguerra fría 1990-2008 (Alianza, Madrid, 2009).

VEIGA, Francisco; UCELAY DA-CAL, Enric; DUARTE, Àngel. La paz simulada. Una historia de la Guerra Fria (1941-1991) (Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2001).


Learning Unit 1:

FUKUYAMA, Francis; “El fin de la historia y otros escritos” (Dossier)

HUNTINGTON, Samuel P. “¿Choque de civilizaciones?, Foreing Affairs, 1993

JUDT, Tony, Algo va mal. Taurus, Madrid, 2011


Learning Unit 2:

BAUMAN, Zygmunt, Tiempos líquidos. Vivir en una época de incertidumbres, Tusquets Eds., Barcelona, 2007

KLEIN, Naomi, La doctrina del shock. El auge del capitalismo del desastre. Paidós, Barcelona, 2007. 


Core group:

ALEKSIÉVICH, Svetlana. El fin del «Homo sovieticus» (El Acantilado, Barcelona, 2015).

CASANOVA, Julián. Europa contra Europa, 1914-1945 (Crítica, Barcelona, 2011).

JUDT, Tony. Sobre el olvidado siglo XX (Taurus, Madrid, 2008).

MISHRA, Pankaj. De las ruinas de los imperios (Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona, 2014).

WASSERSTEIN, Bernard. Barbarie y civilización. Una historia de la Europa de nuestro tiempo (Ariel, Barcelona, 2007 [2ª ed. 2010]).


Learning Unit 1:

KAGAN, Robert. Poder y debilidad. Europa y Estados Unidos en el nuevo orden internacional. Taurus, Madrid, 2003

KAPLAN, ROBERT D. The Revenge of Geography. What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against. Random House, New York 2012 (Vers. Esp. La venganza de la geografia. Cómo los mapas condicionan el destino de las naciones. RBA, Barcelona, 2013

LURI, El neoconservadurisme americà, Angle Editorial – Idees, Assaig breu, Barcelona, 2006

TOURAINE, Alain, Un nuevo paradigma para comprender el mundo de hoy, Paidós, Barcelona, 2005


Learning Unit 2:

ACEMOGLOU, Daron; ROBINSON, James A. ¿Por qué fracasan los países? Los orígenes del poder, la prosperidad y la pobreza, Deusto S. A. Ediciones, 2012

BECK, Ulrich, Un nuevo mundo feliz. La precariedad del trabajo en la era de la globalización. Paidós, Barcelona, 2007

FONTANA, Josep; El futuro es un país extraño. Una reflexión sobre la crisis social de comienzos del siglo XXI, Pasado & Presente, Barcelona, 2013

HARDT, Michael, NEGRI, Antonio, Imperio, Paidós, Barcelona, 2005

Xavier Casals Meseguer • Xavier Diez Rodríguez