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Unit information: Genocide in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Lecture Response Unit) in 2021/22

Unit name Genocide in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HISTM0049
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Janek Gryta
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Can we call the twentieth century the Century of Genocides? Over the past hundred years we have witnessed a rise in state sponsored and ideologically driven violence against civil populations. But was is unprecedented? Or did the twentieth century only stand out from previous epochs because, for the first time ever, the international community defined and tried to prevent genocides? If imperfect, the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was truly unprecedented. Endeavouring to answer those questions, ‘Genocides in Twentieth Century and Beyond’ begins by trying to define the term genocide. We will then examine the recurrent nature of genocide and the measures taken to stop it. We will explore some of the most important aspects of the relationship between state sponsored violence and its effects on individuals and communities who are subjected to, and must eventually come to terms with the aftermath of genocide. We will focus on the manner in which the state vilifies ethnic and social minorities and on the circumstances under which scapegoating turns into massacres and genocide. We will analyse the destructive psychological effects of mass murder but also its ability to produce and reproduce those who partake in killing. Finally, we will try to understand why the international community keeps failing to prevent genocides. The unit examines the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust (the paradigm case) and mass killing in the Soviet Union. We will also analyse mass killings and genocide in Central America, Asia, Yugoslavia and East Africa. This is a multidisciplinary unit that draws on sociology, psychology, and history to explain the phenomenon of genocide. Therefore, we will base our discussions on the readings of various sources: history writings, literary works, investigative journalism, diaries and memoirs, and on analysing documentary films.

Intended Learning Outcomes

1) To give students a broad grounding in the history of genocide during the twentieth century.

2) To improve students’ ability to argue effectively and at length (including an ability to cope with complexities and to describe and deploy these effectively).

3) To be able to display high level skills in selecting, applying, interpreting and organising information, including evidence of a high level of bibliographical control.

4) To develop the ability of students to evaluate and/or challenge current scholarly thinking.

5) To foster student’s capacity to take a critical stance towards scholarly processes involved in arriving at historical knowledge and/or relevant secondary literature.

6) To be able to demonstrate an understanding of concepts and an ability to conceptualise.

7) To develop students’ capacity for independent research.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 5000 words (100%). This will assess ILOs 1-7.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HISTM0049).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.