Contemporary History (20th Century)


a) Be able to acquire an overview of the ‘short twentieth century’ having as chronological landmarks the Great War and the Russian Revolution, on the one hand, and the end of the Cold War in 1991, on the other
b) Be able to understand the dialectic relationship between the factors of change and permanence which shaped some of the key junctures of the 20th century, namely the inter-war period (1919-1939) and the Cold War era (1945-91)
c) Locate, both in chronological and spatial terms, some of the most emblematic crisis and transformations of the 20th century
d) Be familiar with some of the major historical perspectives related with the various topics of the course
e) Be able to write critical essays and deliver oral presentations on any of the topics of the course
f) Become familiar with the Contemporary era and be able to proceed to a higher level of academic studies

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Pedro Aires Ribeiro da Cunha Oliveira


Weekly - 4

Total - 168

Teaching language





HOBSBAWM, E. J., A Era dos Extremos, Lisboa, Presença, 1998
HOLLAND, Robert, European Decolonization 1918-1981, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1985
OVERY, Richard, Os Ditadores. A Alemanha de Hitler e a Rússia de Estaline, Lisboa, Bertrand, 2004
REYNOLDS, David, One World Divisible. A Global History since 1945, London, Penguin, 2000
WESTAD, Arne Odd, The Global Cold War. Third World Interventions and the
Making of Our Times, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005


Teaching method

A combination of lectures by the teacher and scheduled interventions by the students, followed by discussion among all the participants in the class. Occasional screening of documentaries or films. Tutorial meetings with students to help them with the drafting of their essays

Evaluation method

Exam (40%), Participation in some of the classes is mandatory (20%), written essay(40%)

Subject matter

a) Total war: evolution and main characteristics of the Great War. The Paris Peace Conference and the new international settlement
b) The Russian Revolution: the crisis of the Tsarist regime. The February and October revolutions. The Civil War. Lenin’s succession. The Stalin years. The global impact of the Russian Revolution
c) Europe between the wars: the crisis of parliamentary democracy and liberal capitalism. European fascism: a typology. Nazi Germany: interpretative models. The League of Nations and the collapse of the Versailles settlement. The Second World War
d) The birth of the bipolar world: the eclipse of Europe’s preponderance and the rise of the superpowers. The UNO and the post-war international institutions. The first stages of the European integration process. The rebirth of parliamentary democracy and the new social contract in Western Europe. “Real existing socialism” in Eastern Europe


Programs where the course is taught: