History 109: Western Europe Since 1945

This history course includes video lessons and transcripts on topics ranging from the Yalta Conference and the Marshall Plan to the Korean War and European government structure. Use them to continue your study of Western civilization or review significant events occurring in Western Europe after World War II. 

About This Course

Plenty has happened in the roughly seventy years since the surrender of the Axis powers ended the Second World War. Lessons in this chapter explore Europe's attempts to recover from its devastating effects through a series of economic reconstruction strategies and political partnerships. Instructors also examine the government structures and institutions currently in place as well as the consequences of events including the Korean War, ethnic warfare in Yugoslavia, and Bloody Sunday. This chapter's lessons cover the following topics:

  • Repercussions of World War II
  • European reconstruction and the beginning of the Cold War
  • The Cold War's escalation and nuclear arms race
  • Fall of the Soviet Union and collapse of the communist bloc
  • History and development of the European Union
  • Forms of European government and representation
  • Political parties and policy initiatives

Content for this history course is available in the form of short entertaining video lessons that use animations and graphics to illustrate each topic's main ideas. Video lessons also include transcripts if you'd rather follow instruction at your own pace. This resource is embedded with links to supplementary text lessons that take an in-depth look at key terms. If you'd like to find out how well you've absorbed the material, there are self-guided multiple-choice quizzes at the end of each lesson as well.

Course Topics

Course Chapter Objectives
Review of World War II Review events including Hitler's invasion of Poland, the fall of France, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D-Day invasion, and use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Examine the aftermath of the war.
The Cold War in Western & Eastern Europe Follow the emergence of two superpowers following World War II and explore their influence on decolonization and European reconstruction. Study economic and social developments in Eastern and Western Europe as well as the rising tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Examine the nuclear arms race and the Korean War.
The End of the Cold War Discuss the Brezhnev Doctrine, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the collapse of the communist bloc. Investigate the policies of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia, German reunification, and reform in Eastern Europe.
National Developments in the Postwar Period Discover post-war life in countries including Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. Study the economic and social reforms of Great Britain, events such as Bloody Sunday, and the political careers of leaders including Margaret Thatcher and Nikita Khrushchev.
The History of the European Union Identify factors influencing the formation and development of the European Union as well as its contributions to European economic growth. Witness the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Institutions of The European Union (EU) Examine the structure and purpose of such institutions as the European Parliament, the European Council, and the European Commission. Explore the roles of its central bank, court of justice, and court of auditors.
European Government, Political Processes, and Institutions Investigate the purposes of some of the major EU treaties and study the structure of parliamentary forms of government. Outline the differences between federalist systems, constitutional monarchies, and republics. Trace the elections and apportionment processes and discover European citizenship rights and forms of political participation.
European Political Parties Summarize the differing ideologies of groups like the European People's Party, the Party of the European Left (PEL), the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Nordic Green Left Alliance, and the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR).
European Issues and Policies Discuss the purpose of the Multiannual Financial Framework alongside the EU's foreign relations, agricultural, energy, and defense policies. Investigate the history of the Stockholm Programme and the European Institute for Gender Equality.
Government of the United Kingdom Analyze the responsibilities of parliament and the powers held by the British government. Examine the duties of the prime minister and cabinet and learn how the electoral system works. Identify the role of the Queen, the royal family, and the British monarchy.
Government of France Get an overview of the French Fifth Republic's constitution. Explore the powers granted to the executive branch and the system of checks and balances designed to limit them. Research the role of the judicial branch and the ombudsman as well as the key principles of French law and the organization of local government.
Government of Germany Survey Germany's federal republic and its constitution. Discuss structures of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and the powers granted to each. Discover Germany's contributions to the EU, UN, and NATO, among other organizations.
Government of Spain Study the roles of Spain's monarchy, president, and council of ministers. Examine major components of the constitution and the Spanish Magna Carta. Analyze the powers granted to the upper and lower houses of parliament, the constitutional court and the General Council of the Judiciary.
Government of Italy Outline Italy's democratic republic and the Italian constitution. Discuss the powers of the president as well as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Identify the major political parties and coalitions of Italy and survey the history of the First and Second Republic.

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The Cold War in Western & Eastern Europe

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