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HSTCMP 202 A: World Wars I and II

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
Laurie Marhoefer

Syllabus Description:



The First and Second World Wars were human-made catastrophes that engulfed the globe and killed upwards of eighty million people, including tens of millions of civilians. Each war remade the world. Their aftershocks reverberate today and continue to shape global politics.

Welcome! We're excited to have you here in this crazy online quarter.



This canvas page is the main hub for the class -- check back here when the quarter begins for all of the information you'll need. All roads flow from this page, the syllabus page.

This class meets in real time, during the time schedule by the registrar, on Zoom. Access the Zoom meeting through Canvas, either at the Zoom tab or through the calendar.

The class includes an async option but that option is intended to be used by students facing crisis -- read additional info about how async works here. Students are strongly encouraged to attend the live sessions and expected to do so unless they have extenuating circumstances.


Taylor Soja, PhC, Office hours on Zoom, Wednesdays 2:30-3:30

Laurie Marhoefer, PhD, Office hour on Zoom, Wednesdays 12-1 pm, no office hour Nov. 11.

Darby Ward, Teaching Assistant, Office hours on Zoom, Thursdays 12-1 pm 

Office hours

Click the link below for more info about how to attend and how to sign up! Note that you must sign up at least 24 hours in advance for office hours -- if no one signs up at least 24 hours prior, the office hour is cancelled. We'll check the sign up 24 hours before the scheduled office hour and if no one is signed up, we won't check it again, so don't put your name down in that case.

Sign up for all office hours in the sign up sheet in the Collaborations section of Canvas, linked here.



It's here, all will be explained.


This class explores the history of both wars, focusing on military technology, ethics, racism, empire, gender and sexuality, and social history. We will use digital methods to uncover and share stories from the wars that shaped the modern world. No prior tech experience needed. 

This course has two core objectives: 

  • to investigate the histories of World Wars I and II, introducing students to major narratives and questions along the way, and 
  • to teach students to use and evaluate digitized historical data and the data science and digital humanities tools that can be used to analyze and represent the World Wars to an audience outside of our class.

Major themes in the history of the world wars include:

  • What is/was a “world war,” and how were diverse parts of the world affected (or not) unevenly?
  • What roles did gender and sexuality play in politics and warfare?
  • How did war alter societies forever?
  • What ethical problems did the wars raise and how did people react to them?
  • Is there such a thing as a “good” war?
  • Was it ethical to use various new technologies in warfare?
  • Are civilians properly targets of modern warfare? Is encampment an ethical and/or practical means of political or military control in wartime?
  • What were the long-term political consequences of the wars, from the fate of communism to the character of international law to the Cold War to decolonization?

This class is digital!

The final project in the class is a digital project that examines the history of the First or Second World War. No prior knowledge of digital tools or digital humanities is required. Absolute beginners are welcome and encouraged. At the same time, people who already have digital skills are just as welcome and will find much that is new to them. Your project will be in one of two areas (you pick): (a) a data science project (data visualization or analysis) or b) a podcast.

You can check out the project directions here.

A group of men dressed as WWI soldiers sit on the London Underground in 2016.


The three digital workshops

    Three workshops in digital humanities and data skills form the spine of this course. These workshops begin in lecture, and students complete online modules at home. They're on the external website and we'll explain it all. The aim of these workshops and the final project is to teach students to transfer their skills as historians – critically evaluating different kinds of information and sources – to the realm of digital work and data science.



Books to buy! You have to buy three books!

We'll read all sorts of cool stuff, but most of it we'll provide to you as PDFs or free e-books. You only have to buy or otherwise acquire (borrow from your local library if possible) three. If you can, get these books before the quarter starts! They're ordered at the UW bookstore FREE SHIPPING:

  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, any edition, e-book or otherwise. (You may be able to find a free PDF copy somewhere on the interwebs; it's also available used for 5 bucks on
  • Gerhard L. Weinberg, World War II: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2014) e-book or paper your choice. This one retails for about 10$ used and 15$ new you-know-where, or buy it from the UW bookstore.)
  • George Takei, They Called Us Enemy (Top Shelf, 2019), runs about $20, a used copy is fine. Ordered at the UW Bookstore.

Library Ebooks -- We'll read these but don't buy them:

These ebooks are available to read for free with UW Libraries. Be sure you are signed in to the Library Website with your UW Netid before you try to access them.

  • John H Morrow, The Great War: An Imperial History (London: Routledge, 2004). Free ebook available through UW Libraries. Linked here.
  • Ruth Kluger, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (2001, Feminist Press). Free ebook through the UW libraries linked here.


Details on your assignments are here.


Here's information about the numeric grade scale we use, the UW grade scale, and how we calculate final grades.

Course Policies Vis a Vis Increased Stress and Anxiety in the Pandemic, due to Violence, Wildfires, etc.

Details on course policies in times of increased stress and anxiety here.

Trigger Warning

This class includes content about sexual violence (though only occasionally) as well as extreme violence that is not sexual (that kind of violence comes up a lot) as well as other difficult topics. If that's a daunting challenge, reach out to us. Everyone -- including professional historians -- finds some of the stuff we'll study hard to read about and to talk about. It's best not to read the more difficult material (Japan at War, stuff on the Holocaust, some parts of All Quiet, stuff on the a-bomb, etc.) after dinner -- that is, these readings may be traumatic and your brain will do best if you don't read them at night, close to bed time, but rather read them during the day. We've put some trigger warnings below on particularly horrific readings, but if you're worried, reach out to us because we haven't necessarily flagged everything, this blanket warning is meant to cover the entire class.

Policy on Late Work and Extensions

Read here.

Student Conduct, Class Rules, and Plagiarism:

All students please read this.

History department policies that apply in this class

All students please read, very important History Dept. guidelines and rules for class.

How to Do Citations In This Class (footnotes, etc.)

Explained here.

Zoom guidelines


Learning Objectives

Here are the learning objectives, dudes!

If you're taking this class from a location where government officials may be concerned about some course content (sensitive content), read this.



Week 1

Thursday, October 1 - Intro. What is Military History? How is this class digital?  Today's slides here.

  • Nothing to read


Week 2

Tuesday October 6 - Camps Pt. 1 in the Empires of 1900                   Today's slides here.


-- FYI, In addition to our textbook, use this optional resource to follow along on our study of WWI. The 1914-1918 Online Timeline has links at each event on their timeline which take you to detailed secondary source articles written by leading scholars:

  • Timeline of the FWW,” 1914-1918 Online International Encyclopedia of the First World War --


Thursday October 8 - 1914, The Great War Begins / Digital Workshop 1: What is Data? What are the Digital Humanities? (Workshop discussed today in class; you'll complete it for homework, it's due Sunday.)

DH readings:

Sunday, October 11 - First workshop assignment due, upload to Canvas.


Week 3

Tuesday October 13 - Soldiers


Thursday October 15 - Civilians & Home Fronts

Sunday, October 18 - Mini Quiz A due.


Week 4

Tuesday October 20 - 1915, The Armenian Genocide & New Technology 


Thursday October 22 - 1916 / Digital Workshop 2: Analyzing and Visualizing Historical Data (Workshop discussed today in class; you'll complete it for homework, it's due Sunday.)

DH readings:


Sunday, October 25 - Workshop 2 Assignment due, upload to Canvas.


Week 5

Tuesday October 27 - 1917, The Russian Revolution, America Joins the War


Thursday October 29 - 1918, The Day(s) the War Ended…

Sunday, November 1 - Mini Quiz B due

Week 6

Tuesday November 3 - Interwar & Democracy and Fascism Face off in Spain!


Thursday November 5 - - Digital Workshop 3: Public Digital History (Workshop discussed today in class; you'll complete it for homework, it's due Sunday.)

Listen and compare the content, narrative styles, and goals of these podcasts. Take good notes and come ready to talk about them. All three links will take you to podcast transcripts and a link to play the podcasts. You can also find them, especially the RadioLab episode, "on Spotify, Stitcher, in the Apple App Store, or wherever you get your podcasts." 

NOW DUE THE 15th!- Workshop 3 assignment due, upload to Canvas. 


Week 7

Tuesday November 10 - The Second World War, Japanese Invasion of China through German Invasion of Poland to Japan’s Surrender, a Quick Overview  Slides here

  • Weinberg, World War II: A Very Short Introduction (you have to buy this one), page 1 through 10 (stop at the section heading "Germany after WWI and the rise of Hitler," we're skipping that) plus pages 12 - 65.
  • Kort, Columbia Guide, Chapter 3, The Pacific War.

** Weinberg is an excellent speedy overview, and for a lot of people who have only studied WWII from the American perspective it'll fill in some fuzzy spots, but as you'll see, he phones it in on the Pacific War, hence Kort's brief overview, which will repeat a bit of Weinberg but leave you with a much better grasp of the blow-by-blow in the Pacific Theater. 

Collab Document for today, here.


Thursday November 12 - The German-Soviet War & the Turning Point (?) at Stalingrad Slides here


Sunday, November 15 -Quiz Cancelled, Workshop 3 due instead.


Week 8

Tuesday November 17 - Japan’s Empire /Discussing the Final Digital Project Final Project Proposal Assignment Directions Here! ... and the slides for today are here: slides linked here!

**Please note that all of these readings are very troubling and contain graphic descriptions of violence, including kids dying horribly, suicide, and the desecration of dead bodies. If you need to skip all or parts of them that's OK.


Thursday November 19  -  Night Witches, Rubble Frauen, and Hamsters: Women and the Second World War SLIDES FOR TODAY ARE HERE (WE MOVED NIGHT WITCHES TO DEC. 1 FYI)

Here's a link to today's collaborations document.

Sunday, November 22 - Mini Quiz D due


Week 9

Tuesday November 24 -NO CLASS (Final project proposal due tomorrow, directions for this assignment are here)

Start Takei (which you must buy) need to have it finished by Dec. 1. Also consider getting a jump on Klueger, we're assigned to read 100 pages of it next week. Read over Thanksgiving as necessary.


Wednesday, November 25 - Final project proposal due


Thursday November 26 - Thanksgiving/No Class

  • Read Takei this week, have the whole book done by Dec. 1.


Week 10

Tuesday, December 1 - Here is today's breakout room doc! And the slides for today are here -- Night Witches etc. was rescheduled to today, FYI, so these are those slides.

Camps II, Part I (includes the Holocaust) 

  • George Takei, They Called Us Enemy (whole book for today!)


Thursday December 3 - Here are today's slides.

CAMPS II, Day 2 (includes the Holocaust) 

** This reading contains disturbing stuff and graphic violence.


Sunday, December 6  - Mini Quiz E due


Week 11

Tuesday, December 8 -The Tech of WWII: The Computer, The Long-Range Bomber, and the Nuclear Bomb

Slides for today are here

Here's a link to today's collaborations document.


Thursday, December 10 - 1945, the Zero Hour (?) & the World the Wars Made: War Crimes Trials -- Did the Ethics of War Change? The Cold War. Decolonization. World Wars: Did the Ethics of Foreign Affairs Change?

Final Projects Last Chance Freak Out! 

If you liked this class check out this list of other suggested classes like this one!!!

Tuesday, December 15 - FINAL DIGITAL PROJECT DUE

Catalog Description: 
Examines the histories of both World War I and II. Focuses on nationalism and empire, race, gender, sexuality, military technology, ethics, and social history. Students consider how digital history shapes study of the wars, learn digital mapping, text analysis, and podcasting. Offered: A.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 16, 2021 - 11:24pm