MO3518 Intellectuals in Interwar Western Europe, 1918-1939
Lecturer Dr Riccardo Bavaj
Credits 30
Availability TBA
Class Hour TBA
Description The end of the First World War heralded the beginning of an ‘age of ideologies’ (Karl Dietrich Bracher). Interwar Europe was gripped by a war of ideas that should undermine many fledgling democracies. This module examines the role played by intellectuals in that war. It engages their views on key ideas in political thought such as ‘nation’, ‘state’, ‘equality’ and ‘democracy’. Focussing on interwar Germany, Italy, France and Britain, this module provides crucial insights into the history of Western Europe’s struggle over different visions of the future.

Basic Reading
  • Terence Ball & Richard Bellamy (eds.), The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought (2003)
  • Stefan Collini, Absent Minds. Intellectuals in Britain (2006)
  • Jeremy Jennings & Anthony Kemp-Welch (eds.), Intellectuals in Politics. From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie (1997)
  • Anton Kaes et al. (eds.), The Weimar Republic Sourcebook (1994)
  • Jan-Werner Müller, Contesting Democracy. Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe (2011)
  • Richard J. Overy, The Inter-War Crisis 1919-1939 (1994)



Course Structure

1.     Introduction
2.     The intellectual: a matter of definition
3.     The political setting: Western Europe after World War I
4.     Weimar Germany’s left-wing intellectuals: the Weltbühne and its circle
5.     Between French Clarté and Soviet magnificence: Romain Rolland and Henri Barbusse
6.     In search for a ‘new order’: Antonio Gramsci and Italian communism
7.     Essay Feedback Sessions
8.     Visions of social democracy in Britain: Harold Laski and the Webbs
9.     ‘Blessed are the powerful’: D.H. Lawrence and Ernst Jünger
10.  The ultranational and fascist challenge: Charles Maurras and Giovanni Gentile
11.  Germany’s dangerous mind: Carl Schmitt

Assessment 60% examination - 3-hour paper
40% two essays and a presentation

Learning Outcomes
  • Familiarity with key concepts of political thought
  • Ability to analyse primary sources in intellectual history
Restrictions None