Europe in Extremes: Communism, Fascism and Nazism, 1917-1939 - HIST5109

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


This module explores the three extreme ideologies which took hold of parts of Europe during the interwar period – communism (especially in Russia; later, the Soviet Union), fascism (especially in Italy, and later in Spain), and Nazism (in Germany). These ideologies will be assessed in three ways. Firstly, they will be examined individually, encompassing their emergence, rise to power and assumption of total control; here, the emphasis will be on the power of ideological thinking, the extent of popular support attained by the movements, and the country-specific reasons for their success. Secondly, the ideologies will be considered in comparison with one another, including the leadership styles of Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, the roles played by propaganda in their rise and rule, and the ways in which they utilised, or otherwise engaged in, violence to further their aims. And thirdly, the connections between them will be discussed, especially the notion that in the countries mentioned above, and later across Europe, the struggle between extreme ideologies of left and right became the defining issue of the period.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 30
Private Study Hours: 270
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Gobbets Exercise (2,000 words) 20%
Essay 1 (2,500 words) 25%
Presentation 15%
Exam 40%

Reassessment methods:
100% Coursework.

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

De Grand, Alexander, Italian Fascism: Its Origins and Development (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000)
Evans, Richard, The Coming of the Third Reich (London: Penguin, 2004)
Evans, Richard, The Third Reich in Power (London: Penguin, 2006)
Goeschel, Christian, Mussolini and Hitler: The Forging of the Fascist Alliance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018).
Kershaw, Ian, To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 (London: Penguin, 2015)
Kitchen, Martin, Europe Between the Wars: A Political History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006)
Smele, Jonathan, The Russian Civil Wars, 1916-1926: Ten Years that Shook the World (Oxford: OUP, 2015)
Weeks, Theodore, Across the Revolutionary Divide: Russia and the USSR, 1861-1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the three main extreme ideologies which took hold of countries in Europe during the interwar period, understanding how they came to power, how they consolidated their grip on their respective polities and how they governed.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the similarities and differences between these three movements, with particular reference to their ideological foundations, leadership styles, propaganda and social control tactics, foreign policy, and relationship with violence and civil strife.
3. Demonstrate an awareness of how these three systems related to one another, and to other European states (including the liberal democracies, such as France and Britain), and of how their foreign policies fed into major conflicts and disputes during the period 1917-1939, such as the Russian Civil War(s), the Spanish Civil War, the Abyssinian Crisis and the Second World War.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Work with a moderate level of independence to research and develop their understanding of questions and issues.
2. Demonstrate an ability to provide persuasive written and verbal presentations, including the use of a range of primary source materials and historiographical content.
3. Research and integrate primary sources into written and verbal assessments and communicate effectively to a variety of audiences and/or using a variety of methods.
4. Apply their knowledge and skills to the production of a range of different outputs, including both written and oral arguments.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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