Choosing your courses during your undergraduate degree might be one of the most stressful things students do every year. Each student wants a different academic experience, but the agonising choices one faces still resonate all the same. To make your life a bit easier, I want to recommend a few undergraduate history courses for you if you’re struggling to choose what to take:
HY116: International Politics since 1914: Peace and War
If you’re interested in a fantastic overview of the big political decisions of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, then this is the course for you. Like the title suggests, it focuses on international politics since the outbreak of the First World War, looking at crucial periods and decisions like the origins, course, and aftermath of World War I; the Great Depression and the origins of appeasement; the Second World War; the global origins of the Cold War and aspects of the Cold War world, including the hot wars in Korea and Vietnam, global decolonisation, European integration, the rise of the Global South, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the superpower relationship between the US and the USSR; and the origins and outbreak of the two Iraq wars. If you are fascinated by questions of war, peace, diplomacy, and high politics, then this is the course for you.
HY245: The United States and the World Since 1776
In our globalised world of 2022, it’s easy to the United States and American influence everywhere we look. From English as the global language and shopping malls to Hollywood and Levis jeans, the U.S. is ubiquitous. This leads many to think they have a firm understanding of the U.S. and its history. However, if you’re someone who wants to challenge what you think you know about this nation, or you’re simply interested in delving into a fascinating history, I highly recommend you take this course. It focuses on America’s relations with the wider world since its founding in 1776.
Each week, it focuses on a different topic, but it aims to be as comprehensive as possible. Course topics include the arrival of European settlers in North America and their relations with the Native Americans; the American Revolution; trade in the early American Republic and the War of 1812; Native American dispossessions and slavery; the American Civil War and the rise of the U.S. to global power in the late nineteenth century; the world wars and the Cold War, and of course if the future of American power in an era of great-power competition in the twenty-first century. If you’re looking for a fabulous introduction to American history or a more advanced look at U.S. foreign relations, this is a great choice.
HY320: The Cold War Endgame
In a period of increasing tension between the West and Russia, this is an intellectually stimulating opportunity to revisit the final days of the Cold War for exploring the origins of present-day relations between these two sides. It starts in the 1970s with the origins and rise of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union and a relaxation of pressure between East and West. From there, it examines the demise of this more peaceful period between the superpowers and the explosion of strained relations as the 1980s begins.
During the remainder of the course, it examines in-depth how the Cold War radically transforms and shifts throughout the decade so that by 1989, you have the fall of the Berlin Wall and the withdrawal of Soviet power from Eastern Europe. Two years later, the USSR collapses as the United States stands as the world’s sole remaining superpower. If this puzzle fascinates and excites you, then you should definitely take this course.