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War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000

War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000

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War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000

War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000

Course No.  8820
Course No.  8820
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Course Overview

About This Course

36 lectures  |  31 minutes per lecture

For much of the past five centuries, the history of the European continent has been a history of chaos, its civilization thrown into turmoil by ferocious wars or bitter religious conflicts—sometimes in combination—that have made and remade borders, created and eliminated entire nations, and left a legacy that is still influencing our world.

Is there an explanation for this chaos that goes beyond the obvious: political ambition, religious intolerance, the pursuit of state power, or the fear of another state's aspirations? Can we discover a hidden logic that could possibly explain the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, two World Wars, and other examples of national bloodletting? Is it possible to formulate a meaningful rationale against which to order a history as tumultuous as Europe's, gaining insights that enrich our understanding of Europe's past and future, and perhaps even of ours as well?

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For much of the past five centuries, the history of the European continent has been a history of chaos, its civilization thrown into turmoil by ferocious wars or bitter religious conflicts—sometimes in combination—that have made and remade borders, created and eliminated entire nations, and left a legacy that is still influencing our world.

Is there an explanation for this chaos that goes beyond the obvious: political ambition, religious intolerance, the pursuit of state power, or the fear of another state's aspirations? Can we discover a hidden logic that could possibly explain the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, two World Wars, and other examples of national bloodletting? Is it possible to formulate a meaningful rationale against which to order a history as tumultuous as Europe's, gaining insights that enrich our understanding of Europe's past and future, and perhaps even of ours as well?

In War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500–2000, Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius answers these questions and more as he offers everyone interested in the "why" of history a remarkable look into the evolution of the European continent and the modern state system. In 36 provocative lectures, he allows us to peer through the revealing lens of statecraft to show us its impact on war, peace, and power and how that impact may well be felt in the future—an approach that historians have been using for thousands of years.

"Diplomatic history is one of the oldest varieties of historical analysis," Professor Liulevicius notes. "Indeed, it's sometimes traced back all the way to Thucydides and the vision that he offered of Greek state interaction and politics.

"Diplomatic history offers a tremendously powerful intellectual tool to understand how states relate to one another. Because states are still relating with one another today, it is of undiminished relevance for our own times. ...

"As we conclude our course, we'll be able to ask, 'Where is Europe headed today, and what implications will follow for the world at large?' as we survey what had begun as a European state system [but which] has now become a global system of states in international politics."

Learn How Europe's Most Pivotal Moments Shaped History

Far more than just a history of ambassadorial missions and other diplomatic efforts, this course re-creates Europe's most pivotal historical moments—in the context of their times—showing how contemporary pressures and historical precedent combined to influence individuals, governments, structures, and even non-state organizations.

These events would happen not only on history's bloodiest battlefields but also in quieter settings where so many of the factors that would govern Europe's future would be set into place:

  • You'll see how the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, negotiated at the first great diplomatic conference of modern times, not only brought to a close the ordeal of the Thirty Years' War but also overthrew existing ideals and claims of universal authority to create the European system of independent sovereign states, setting into motion new concepts of international law that would codify the new politics of power.
  • You'll experience the dawn of Europe's "classical balance of power," as the 1815 Congress of Vienna—amidst the exuberance and glitter of great balls and banquets—responds to the defeat of Napoleon with its creation of the so-called Concert of Europe, a new order opposed to revolution and based on conservative solidarity that would keep Europe from general war for nearly a century.
  • And you'll be in Paris in 1919 for the aftermath of the shattering of the Concert of Europe, as the victorious allies gather to draft a comprehensive Paris Settlement—including the Treaty of Versailles—meant to build a new and lasting European order on the ruins of the old.

Each of these key points on history's timeline represents an attempt to establish a lasting idea of order in the European world, a task with which Europe's states have been wrestling since the birth of modern diplomacy in Renaissance Italy.

Explore the Dynamics of International Politics

In examining how these and other attempts have succeeded or failed, Professor Liulevicius offers a key to understanding the dynamics of international politics, as well as how such key concepts as the balance of power, power itself, sovereignty, and "reason of state"—the raison d'état first enunciated by France's powerful Cardinal Richelieu—fit into those dynamics. There's even a fascinating discussion on the implications of instantaneous communications technology—not only for the practice of diplomacy, but also for whether that technology makes diplomats themselves more important or less so; historians line up on both sides of the debate.

Beginning with a snapshot of where Europe stood at the dawn of the 16th century, Professor Liulevicius weaves his analysis of statecraft into a vast tapestry of international history.

It's a tapestry that includes not only 500 years of military outcomes, the long-term impact of their settlements, and the "grand strategies" of which they were a part but also the many issues against which statecraft and diplomacy cannot help but brush. These include peacemaking; international law; the passions—even wars—so often brought about by intractable religious differences; the defense of human rights and minorities, including the abolition of slavery; the efforts of international organizations like the Red Cross; the challenges smaller states face when trying to implement foreign policy; and the efforts at achieving a stable European order that have culminated in today's European Union.

Throughout these lectures, as great and small states feint and clash, as ambitions are realized or thwarted, and as Europe's map is drawn and redrawn several times over—very often in blood—Professor Liulevicius returns to several key themes that tie together this wide-ranging array of material:

  • How earlier experiences and precedents influence later maneuvering, and the ways in which geopolitical problems that have persisted across the centuries have helped shape the world we live in today
  • How elusive the pursuit of the goal of stability can be in an international arena marked by constant change
  • How diplomatic methods, customs, protocols, and approaches can sometimes be as important as the actual substance of international questions and their solutions
  • How critical the impact of the evolving concept of Europe itself is on those participating in this five-century diplomatic drama.

Vivid Images of the Actors Who Shaped Europe

Educated not only in the United States but also in Denmark and Germany—with award-winning teaching skills, tremendous experience in the subject matter of this course, and a wonderful command of both the visual and audio media—Professor Liulevicius creates vivid images of the figures whose actions, whether overt or subtle, onstage or off, helped shape the Europe we know today, including:

  • Prince Klemens von Metternich, the masterful Austrian diplomat known as the "Coachman of Europe," who presided over the Congress of Vienna and orchestrated many of its results
  • Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, the French statesman sometimes called the greatest of diplomats, but whose skills at political survival and reputation for duplicity reportedly led Metternich to remark, when informed of Talleyrand's death, "I wonder what he meant by that?"
  • German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the brilliant, pragmatic, and ruthless inventor of Realpolitik—the "politics of realism"—who spearheaded German unification under Kaiser Wilhelm I but whose complex arrangement of interlocking alliances could not survive his absence after his dismissal by the brash young Kaiser Wilhelm II
  • French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, "the Tiger," who represented his nation during the Paris Settlement and who was so devoted to French security that legend has it he requested his corpse be buried standing up and facing the Germany he so deeply mistrusted, the better to give warning if need be
  • Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the exiled Russian revolutionary whom the German high command shipped from neutral Switzerland back to Russia by train in order to infect the new Russia with revolution—with Lenin's train car "sealed" and closely guarded to protect Germany from his dangerous ideas
  • George F. Kennan, the American historian and diplomat whose famous 1946 "Long Telegram" from Moscow and anonymous 1947 article in Foreign Affairs magazine became the intellectual foundation of the United States' policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union.

As War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500–2000 underscores, the impact on history of each of these figures—along with many others—was profound. But as Professor Liulevicius notes, our own impact as citizens, even if less momentous, can also be critical.

"Public involvement in and knowledge of foreign affairs—whether by ordinary citizens taking out a passport to travel, or seeking understanding of the past as well as the present in its diplomatic dimension—all of this is perhaps also a diplomatic act of participation and promise for the future.

"This is an undertaking open to all of us: to seek to understand diplomatic history in its past and present as we seek to understand the scourge of war, even when it seems necessary; the profound gift of true peace, when it's achieved; and the potentiality—as well as the perils—of the use of power."

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36 Lectures
  • 1
    Foundations of Diplomacy
    This lecture defines key concepts—such as power, reason of state, and balance of power—and introduces the debates that repeatedly resonate in international history, including the competing schools of Realism and Idealism and the question of who or what ultimately steers the foreign policy choices of states. x
  • 2
    Europe in 1500—Ancient and New Monarchies
    We set the historical stage of early modern Europe, including Europe's encounter with a wider world in the form of trade, diplomacy, and an expanding Ottoman Empire; the challenge to older authority represented by the "new monarchies"; and the emergence of an embryonic diplomacy. x
  • 3
    Renaissance Statecraft in Italy
    The city-states of Renaissance Italy pioneer patterns of modern diplomacy that will be of lasting significance to this day, including representation by resident ambassadors. The balance of power among these states lasts from the 1454 Peace of Lodi until the invasion by outside powers in 1494, a year so important that some historians date the modern age from it. x
  • 4
    Religion and Empire
    From 1500 to 1618, the battle to rule the European continent begins to shape the modern European state system. We look at the intense rivalry between the Habsburg dynasty of Austria and Spain and the Valois royal family of France, as well as the challenge of the Protestant Reformation. x
  • 5
    The Thirty Years' War
    The Thirty Years' War rages across the center of Europe from 1618 to 1648, intertwining explosive elements of religion and politics and drawing in an ever-increasing number of major powers. The resulting exhaustion produces an epochal change in how international politics is understood and practiced. x
  • 6
    The Peace of Westphalia, 1648—A New Era
    The Thirty Years' War ends with the first of the great diplomatic peace conferences of modern times, creating the European system of sovereign states, setting the stage for the rise of France as a superpower, and establishing new concepts of international law. x
  • 7
    French Superpower
    France takes on the role of the strongest European power, and neighboring kingdoms seize on coalition diplomacy to contain it, asserting a European balance of power that would be ratified in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. x
  • 8
    The Great Powers
    We survey the other great powers of the day from 1648 to 1740, focusing first on the evolving profession of the diplomat and then on the fortunes of the Dutch Republic, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Spain, tracing the distinctive styles and approaches of each of these states to the dangerous international scene. x
  • 9
    Northern Earthquake
    From 1648 to the 1770s, political convulsions in northern and eastern Europe bring new dynamic players—Sweden, the Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania, and Russia—into the European state system as additional factors in diplomatic calculation. x
  • 10
    18th-Century Competition
    We explore how the paradoxes of the Age of Enlightenment affect international relations. On the one hand, Enlightenment thinkers craft plans for a permanent peace based on reason, tolerance, and international law. At the same time, military and diplomatic competition achieve a new level of cynicism. x
  • 11
    Revolutions
    The era of the American and French Revolutions transforms the European continent. Nationalism and mass politics are unleashed, and the French Revolution of 1789 touches off a quarter-century of war in Europe that will reorder politics and redraw the diplomatic map. x
  • 12
    Napoleon's Glory and Defeat
    This lecture follows the Emperor Napoleon's remarkable career to his ultimate defeat in 1815. Bestriding the European mainland, Napoleon establishes both his Grand Empire and a system of allied states linked in the Continental System, even as guerrilla war in Spain portends trouble. x
  • 13
    The Congress of Vienna
    The Congress gathers the powers that had triumphed over Napoleon (joined by the restored French kingdom) to construct a new order founded on conservative solidarity and the values of legitimacy and opposition to revolution. This new "Concert of Europe" will enjoy remarkable success for close to a century. x
  • 14
    The Concert of Europe System
    We focus on the operations of the Concert of Europe from 1815 to 1848, with special attention to the periodic international congresses convened under its auspices and their determined efforts to stamp out what they considered the dark and dangerous forces of Nationalism and Liberalism. x
  • 15
    Eastern and Western Questions
    We examine the problems posed by events and dynamics at the margins of the European arena from 1815 to 1848, including the fate of the Ottoman Empire, U.S. resistance to an expansion of the balance of power system across the Atlantic, and the beginnings of renewed European Imperialism overseas. x
  • 16
    The Challenge of 1848 and Napoleon III
    We cover the period from 1848 to 1870 and examine two diplomatic surprises: the lack of widespread war caused by the revolutions of 1848—in contrast to the French Revolution—and the rise to power of a new Napoleon, an enigmatic figure who champions Nationalism and Liberalism while hatching diplomatic conspiracies to redraw Europe's map. x
  • 17
    Britain's Empire
    This lecture examines the waxing and waning of the British Empire over the course of the 19th century, including its industrial and economic might, its liberal advocacy of international free trade and the abolition of slavery, and its fateful dominion over India. x
  • 18
    The Crimean War
    The Crimean War of 1853–1856 reflects even deeper tensions and diplomatic problems in the European order. We see how Russia's defeat batters the Concert of Europe and its vision of conservative solidarity and sets the stage for dramatic changes. x
  • 19
    Italian Unification
    The 1858–1861 unification of Italy as a nation-state fulfills a long-standing dream. But the achievement also relies on changes on the international scene and assistance from France, skillfully engineered by Count Camillo di Cavour, the prime minister of Piedmont. x
  • 20
    German Unification
    The 1862–1871 unification of the German Empire—steered by the Prussian "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck—upsets political certainties. Will this new power at the center of the continent anchor peace or disrupt stability? x
  • 21
    The Bismarckian System
    Bismarck's challenge is to reconcile the new empire's neighbors to the fact of the "German revolution" and to present Germany as a guarantor of stability. We follow the building, functioning, and eventual breakdown of the Bismarckian system of diplomacy from 1871 to 1894. x
  • 22
    High Imperialism
    The European powers launch a scramble for empire, cruelly carving up entire continents. We examine the wave of High Imperialism from the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the "Scramble for Africa" to 1898, with France and Britain on the brink of a colonial war. x
  • 23
    The Reconfigured World of 1900
    New alignments emerge, with decisive changes in diplomatic patterns. Telling trends include popular movements for peace while Europe arms on land and sea, Japan's defeat of the Russian Empire, greater American presence in international venues, and increasing regional crises. x
  • 24
    Balkan Instability
    This lecture, covering the years 1900 to 1913, returns to the long-standing "Eastern Question" concerning the future of the Ottoman territories. With the Turkish realm perceived as being in terminal decline, the question has now reached a critical stage. x
  • 25
    The Outbreak of World War I
    The outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 is the object of one of the biggest debates in modern history. How did European diplomats and statesmen bring the continent to the brink and then plunge it into an ever-widening war? x
  • 26
    World War I—Total War
    World War I, with its all-encompassing mobilization of mass armies, entire economies, domestic societies, and vitally needed allies, produces extraordinary changes, including the overturning of long-standing diplomatic patterns, the collapse of four empires, and the emergence of two future superpowers: the United States and Soviet Russia. x
  • 27
    The Paris Settlement
    After four years of devastating war, the victors of World War I gather in Paris in 1919 to draft a comprehensive settlement and create a new international order, replacing that of the Congress of Vienna. The controversial results will alter the balance of the century. x
  • 28
    Interwar Europe
    At the dawn of the postwar decade, Europe has a new map, and great hopes have been vested in the League of Nations. Yet relations between France and Germany remain tense, the new states of eastern Europe are arguing over borders, and the United States has withdrawn from European politics. x
  • 29
    Europe into Crisis
    The Great Depression of 1929 and the shift toward Authoritarianism and Fascism in European politics move the continent toward another disaster. We track the rise to power of Mussolini in Fascist Italy and Hitler in Nazi Germany and the calculations of Stalin in the Soviet Union. x
  • 30
    World War II
    We examine the diplomatic bombshell that paved the way to war—the Nazi–Soviet Pact of August 1939; outline Hitler's ambitions and their culmination in his invasion of his Soviet ally; and discuss the complicated alliance among the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union x
  • 31
    Aftermath and Peace Plans
    This lecture devotes special attention to the immediate aftermath of World War II, including the lack of a final, comprehensive settlement; the founding of the United Nations; the Potsdam Conference; Stalin's reimposition of harsh personal powers; and growing tensions among the victors. x
  • 32
    The Cold War Begins
    In the key years from 1946 to 1949, the split between former allies—the United States and Great Britain on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other—widens, and the so-called "Cold War" begins, bringing with it a distinctive brand of crisis diplomacy. x
  • 33
    Blocs and Decolonization
    We look at two key processes from 1949 to 1956. The first is decolonization, with Europe's powers losing most of their once-huge imperial holdings. The other is the increasing Cold War polarization of Europe, configured into the military alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. x
  • 34
    The European Project
    In response to a half-century of war and tension, Europe's leaders depart from the competitive politics of statehood inaugurated at the Treaty of Westphalia to take a new direction. The European project of unity from 1957 onward will culminate in today's European Union. x
  • 35
    The Fall of the Wall
    With unexpected rapidity, the Communist states of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself collapse near the end of the 20th century. This lecture, covering the years 1980–1991, discusses the deeper causes leading to this startling transformation. x
  • 36
    Post–Cold War to the Present
    This lecture covers the years from 1991 to the beginning of the present century, including the expansion of NATO and the European Union, renewed Balkan violence, and Russia's search for its new international role. We end by considering several questions—including whether Europe is now entering a fundamentally new era of statecraft, or if the historical dynamics of war, peace, and power still apply. x

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Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
Ph.D. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
University of Tennessee

Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

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Reviews

Rated 4.4 out of 5 by 40 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Unique approach I think the key to appreciating this series is to see it in relation to its title: Diplomatic History, or "statecraft." The professor's intent is to explore the role of diplomacy, as a subset of politics, in Europe 1500-present. It examines the development of the "modern state" and issues related to maintaining a "balance of power" in the European arena. In that sense, the professor is offering a systemic, almost organic, position on the vagaries and dynamics of power. It helped one see "Europe-as-a-whole" as well as interactions between differing nations. While there are lectures, for example, on Italy, Germany, Balkans, etc., the lecturers keeps the context of the entire continent as a backdrop for understanding the individual country. I found this approach much to my liking, in that it took a slice of history and presented in in a dynamic way. The lecturer has a clear delivery style, as well, which added to my enjoyment. I have liked all of his courses on TTC. January 9, 2009
Rated 3 out of 5 by Comprehensive and detailed Very comprehensive, but for me, too much detail on a very large topic, especially in the second half of the course. I would prefer more time spent on overall analysis and results. October 4, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by A Very Good Overview This was a fantastic course filled with a lot of information and well organized. he has a vast knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject matter and I definitely got alot out of this course. Due to the extension information being presented, I think I would need to review the course again. April 21, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great Overview Great overview of European History. Professor was animated, but not over the top. I liked him enough to immediately buy another course from him (World War I) March 17, 2014
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