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James V. Koch

HIST 368/396

ECON 202

ECON 301

ECON 456/556

ECON 604

HIST 396

3 Semester Hours
Tuesday, 7:10-9:50 pm
Constant Hall Rm. 1010

World War II was the greatest military conflict of all time. At least 60 million human beings lost their lives during or directly after the war. It shaped the world in which we now live--politically, socially, economically, militarily. Numerous events during the last few years are the product of World War II. Obvious examples include the Berlin Wall and German unification, Swiss bankers' use of Nazi assets, divided Korea, and the hostile reaction of the Chinese government to Japan's remembrance/celebration of that country's participation in the war. Perhaps less obvious, but equally important, are the large scale entry of women into the labor force, the racial integration of American society, and the impact of the GI Bill upon higher education.

This course will focus upon the war itself--what happened--but also link those events to the world we see today. There are five reasons why a reexamination of World War II as a set of historical events is more profitable now than it might have been twenty years ago. First, nearly all of the major participants in the war now are deceased. While it is a significant disadvantage that we are no longer able to talk with them, it also means current discussions no longer are influenced by the sometimes self-serving recollections of participants, particularly at the level of command. This will also afford the opportunity to talk about how history ultimately is written and what the role of participants is or should be in that process. Second, the demise of the Cold War has opened new sources of information, especially those in the former Soviet Union. A prominent example is Antony Beevor's, The Fall of Berlin, 1945, which presents important new information on that climactic episode of the war in Europe. Third, important revelations concerning code breaking and message interception that bear on the ultimate conduct of the war have come to light as the ULTRA and MAGIC projects have been given publicity. Fourth, sophisticated computer software now is available that enables us to undertake counterfactual "what if" experiments concerning the critical wartime decisions. Fifth, using the advantage of hindsight, we now have the capability to undertake a more precise assessment of major societal/world developments that either were begun or were accentuated by the war, including rapid American industrialization, migration to California, the movement of African-Americans out of the south, racial integration, permanent increases in the proportion of women in the labor force, changing sex mores, the end of colonialism, the creation of Israel, the dawn of the Atomic Age, and the advent of the cold war.

With new sources of information and different ways of looking at events and people, there is ample reason to study World War II. In addition, and again relying upon hindsight, we now know that many events in World War II might have turned out quite differently than they actually did. This provides us with the ability to reevaluate the role and wisdom of most of the major military personalities in the war. Hindsight is wonderful!

In sum, there is abundant reason to take another look at World War II. We will undertake that reappraisal by reading, viewing appropriate videos, listening to both participants and experts, and utilizing computer simulations to undertake counterfactual historical experiments.

This site contains the following:

  1. Syllabus
  2. Copies of the Weekly Problems
  3. Copy of the Final Examination Questions
  4. Cartography: More than  300 Maps and Tables 
  5. A World War II Time Line
  6. Short Biographies on Major War Participants and Leaders
  7. Library citations for most books, articles mentioned in class