HSTCMP 202 A: World Wars I and II Digital Histories

Autumn 2021
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm / KNE 220
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

HSTCMP 202 / 2021 Fall


Mondays/Wednesdays, 1:30-3:20, Kane Hall 220

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



  • Class meets in person. While attending class all students must follow the UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy.
  • This is Canvas page is the main hub for the class. Assignments are submitted through Canvas. The syllabus is below.
  • All the lectures are recorded. If you're not feeling well and have one or more symptoms on the university's list (including a runny nose or just feeling tired) don't come to in-person class; watch the lecture video instead. Most videos are in Panopto; I make a note next to each date on the list below about where the recording is.



Laurie Marhoefer, PhD, Associate Professor and Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor of History


(Class co-created in 2020 with Taylor Soja, PhC.)

Marhoefer office hours: Tuesdays, 10 am - 11 am, on Zoom unless otherwise indicated, Zoom location and sign up for Marhoefer office hours here

Teaching Assistant Ting-chieh (David) Ou-yang


Ou Yang office hours: 8-10 am Fridays, on Zoom unless otherwise indicated. Zoom location and sign up for David Ou Yang office hours 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 roles did gender and sexuality play in politics and warfare?
  • What ethical problems did the wars raise and how did people react to them?
  • Is there such a thing as a “good” war?
  • What role did technological development play in warfare?
  • What roles did racism and imperialism play in warfare?
  • Are civilians properly targets of modern warfare?
  • 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.


The above image is from this amazing project in the UK. The course icon image is a painting of the 1916 Battle of Magdhaba (Camel Corps at Magdhaba by H. Septimus Power (1926), more info here.) Yes, they used camels in WWI.


Books to buy!

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 giantsoulsuckingwebretailer.com.)
  • George Takei, They Called Us Enemy (Top Shelf, 2019), runs about $20, a used copy is fine.
  • EB Sledge, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (you can use any edition; there's a new edition but you may be able to find an older edition for sale for cheap somewhere.)


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, including suicide, racism, and mass murder. 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 at night -- Japan at War, stuff on the Holocaust, some parts of All Quiet, stuff on the a-bomb, etc.). These readings are 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, including on COVID, 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.

If for some reason we have to move to Zoom: Zoom guidelines


Learning Objectives

Here are the learning objectives, dudes!

What happens if for some reason (such as a COVID exposure in class) we have to go to a remote learning model?

Then the lectures will be on Zoom and nothing else will change. Lectures will still be recorded; you can watch them later, via the Zoom link on Canvas.

Where are the lecture videos?

If the class was in-person, the video is usually in Panopto, you access it from the Canvas page, click the 'Panopto' tab at left. If Prof. M. taught it on Zoom, the video is in Zoom, access from Canvas, click the 'Zoom' tab at left. The video for the intro day is an exception, it is linked below.



Week 1

September 29, Wednesday - Intro. What is Military History? How is this class digital?

  • Nothing to read except this syllabus -- please read the whole thing carefully before class
  • There a Panopto recording of most of the class under the Panopto tab at left, click there. It unfortunately cuts out about 20 minutes from the end of class; the rest of the class was about the digital portion of the class. To get that material, read the syllabus, taking a look at the final project directions as you do so, and spend a little bit of time looking at the external website.
  • A recording of the complete audio from today's class is here
  • The slides from today are here


Week 2

October 4, Monday - Camps Pt. 1 in the Empires of 1900      Today's slides are here, video is under Panopto Recordings tab at left       

-- FYI, 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:


October 5 optional Prof. M. talk on Zoom, Queer & Trans Nazi Germany + Holocaust, register here


October 6, Wednesday

The slides for today are here. Class was recorded; access the recording under the Zoom tab in Canvas.

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 Friday.)

Friday, October 8 - First workshop assignment due, upload to Canvas.


Week 3

October 11, Monday - Soldiers  -- slides are here, video is in Panopto (tab at left)

  • Start reading All Quiet on the Western Front (hereafter AQWF) (assignment for today: CH 1-3)


October 13, Wednesday - Civilians & Home Fronts -- Slides are here, video is in Panopto

Saturday, October 16 - Quiz A due.


Week 4

Monday, October 18 - 1915 & The Armenian Genocide      Slides here, lecture video in Panopto


Wednesday, October 20 - Technology in WWI: Subs, Gas, Guns / Digital Workshop 2: Analyzing and Visualizing Historical Data          Slides here, video in Panopto


Friday, October 22 - Workshop 2 Assignment DUE, upload to Canvas.


Week 5

Monday, October 25 - 1916, the Turning Point? 1917, The Russian Revolution, America Joins the War

Recording of class in Panopto. Slides here.


Wednesday, October 27 - 1918, The Day(s) the War Ended…  Slides here, video in Panopto -- FYI we talked a lot about the quiz in class today

  • Finish AQWF (Chapters 11 and 12) be ready to discuss the whole book
  • Listen to Nancy Bristow (author of American Pandemic and leading expert on the 1918-19 flu pandemic) give a lecture on June 2, 2020 for the UW History Department “Pandemic Then (And Now): Covid-19 Through the Lens of the 1918 Influenza Crisis” (1 hour, starts at about 5 mins in -- feel free to skip the introduction of her and go right to her lecture. She talks a lot about Trump -- it's fine to ignore that, it's a bit dated now. Please listen to the questions at the end and her answers, some of her best material is there).

Saturday, October 30, 7 pm - Quiz B due-- quiz closes at 7 pm on Oct 30 finish it before then

Week 6

Monday, November 1 - Interwar, Part I              Video in Panopto and slides here


Wednesday, November 3 - - Digital Workshop 3: Public Digital History (Workshop discussed today in class; you'll complete it for homework, it's due next week but feel free to turn it in early.)   Video in Panopto, Slides here

For today: Read Cohen's article on Nazis on Wikipedia. Then, listen and compare the content, narrative styles, and goals of these podcasts. Then begin Sledge. For the podcasts: take 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." 


Week 7

November 8, Monday - The Second World War, Japanese Invasion of China through German Invasion of Poland to Japan’s Surrender, an Overview         Slides here, video in Panopto.


November 10, Wednesday - The German-Soviet War & the Turning Point (?) at Stalingrad    Video in Panopto, slides here


*November 11 is Veteran's Day and the anniversary of the WWI Armistice


November 12, Friday - Workshop 3 assignment due, upload to Canvas. 


Week 8

November 15, Monday  -



Japan’s Empire /Discussing the Final Digital Project

**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 skim parts of them that's OK.

Everyone read:  Final Project Proposal Assignment Directions Here!

Last names A-L read:

  • Cook and Cook, Japan at War, Part A. Cook and Cook's classic book is a collection of oral histories of people about the Pacific War.

Last names M-Z read:

  • Cook and Cook, Japan at War, Part B.

Everyone read:

  • Sledge, With the Old Breed, 195-203; 261-315. The first section here is about the beginning of Sledge's experience of the Battle of Okinawa; the second section is the end of his experience in that battle and his conclusions. You may be a little confused because we're skipping around in his book. Bear with me. I am trying to give you enough reading that you get a real sense for his perspective and of his experience of the battle without assigning too many pages.


November 17, Wednesday  -  Night Witches, Rubble Frauen, and Hamsters: Women and the Second World War

Slides here, video in Panopto. *Note that today we didn't cover the material that's on the syllabus for today; we will do it after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 29.


November 20, Saturday - Quiz C due


Week 9

Monday, November 22 - NO CLASS

Start Takei (which you must buy) need to have it finished by next week. Read it over Thanksgiving as necessary. It's a quick read.


Tuesday, November 23 - Final project proposal due (No Class)

directions for this assignment are here


Wednesday, November 24 - Thanksgiving/No Class

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


Week 10

November 29, Monday

Camps II, Part I (includes the Holocaust)        Slides here, video in Panopto

  • George Takei, They Called Us Enemy (please read the whole book for today!)
  • Look at this photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima
  • Make sure you read the stuff for November 17, we will discuss it today and it'll be on the next quiz.


December 1, Wednesday

CAMPS II, Day 2 (includes the Holocaust) 

Slides here, video in Panopto

** Assigned reading/listening/viewing includes graphic violence.


Week 11

December 6, Monday -The Tech of WWII: The Computer, The Long-Range Bomber, and the Nuclear Bomb Slides here, video in Panopto


December 8, Wednesday - 1945, the Zero Hour (?) & the World the Wars Made: War Crimes Trials -- Did the Ethics of War Change? The Cold War. Decolonization -- Did the Ethics of Foreign Affairs Change?    slides here, video in Panopto

December 10, Friday  - Quiz D due

Wednesday, 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 Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
July 12, 2024 - 2:01 am