Important Announcements for Going Online!

  • Every week, you must respond to two lessons. Check the Plague Syllabus for details! Remember that your posts are due each week by Friday at 5pm.
  • You do not need to respond to all of the questions I ask! You can focus on the one that interests you most.
  • I will post all my videos on this blog with the title, category, and tag “Euro Vision.”
  • As you start working on your final papers, remember to read carefully through the HIS 270 Writing Handout and other resources, which you can find here.

The United States of Europe or Not

In the two pieces from “Twentieth-Century Europe,” we see juxtaposed opinions on the state and roles of different countries following the close of the Second World War. We see William Beveridge looking inward for the future of Great Britain: “we in Britain should look first to putting our own house in order and dealing with things which are within our own power, before we try to put the whole world in order (Beveridge 506).” Beveridge seems to speak very paternalistically about the role of Britain. Asking first they seek isolationist policies to better Great Britain and then try to put the world in order as if it is a duty they must complete. While perhaps speculatively, this idea of a strong and independent Britain seems to foreshadow Brexit. Beveridge’s remarks counter Jean Monnet’s Eurocentric approach. Monnet’s words argue for European superiority, exceptionalism, and unity. Excited by the first time that they “were able to go to the United States without having to ask for anything (Monnet 559),” Monnet seems to have a disdain for what he might feel to be European inferiority following the Second World War. I ask then how different national and continental views arose and were accepted in post-war Europe. What are the benefits and consequences of an Anglocentric approach and a Eurocentric approach? How might these have been shaped?

Why did nobody care about New Britain?

In Beveridge’s speech we see him talk about his 5 points Britain needs to accomplish to successfully recover from the war and prevent Britain from falling into an economic depression. We also see that Beveridge was really the only one at the time in an official position who was worried about Britain’s economic and societal well being after the war. As he states “Beveridge was correct in believing that his new appointment was not seen by the government as an important one, and certainly not as the prelude to a massive programme of social reconstruction” (Boyer & Goldstein, 504). My question is why did it seem as if Britain was not worried at all or focused on its own economy and well being after the war and how it would prosper after this massive war that some of took place right on it’s home turf?

“New” Britain, New “Britain”, or “New Britain”?

In the beginning of Sir William Beveridge, New Britain, he discusses the idea of how people want something new after a war and how people put emphasis on different parts of “New Britain.” He speaks of the “very few of us want something utterly unlike the Britain that we have known and loved.” (Beveridge, 505) Implying he wants a New Britain instead of a New Britain or a New Britain. On the next page, he explains that “New Britain sums up the common desires of all of us today…” (Beveridge, 506) as he goes on the explain the Five Great Evils and possible ways to fix them. However, near the end of the piece Beveridge stated, “Until all the other tasks are taken in hand, I shall, for my part, put the emphasis on ‘new’ and say that I want a new Britain rather than a new Britain.” (Beveridge, 512) From his statements, it is easy to understand that he is looking for a New Britain. How does Beveridge wanted to get to New Britain if they are stuck at New Britain? Why doesn’t he just want either a New Britain or a New Britain? What is his idea of New Britain?

New Britain

In Sir William Beveridge’s piece he discusses a variety of topics relevant to his ideal “New Britain.” One part in particular that I found interesting was his thoughts under his section titled, “Freedom From Five Giant Evils.” Here, there are parallels to both Stalin’s Soviet Union. In comparison to Stalin, Beveridge provides the quote that “Its a means of taking some of the National Income – the income of all the men and women of this country, when they are earning – and keep it for when they are not earning” (Beveridge 507). Here it provides a similar idea of what Stalin did for the Soviet Union to provide social programs and healthcare for those who needed. All though it was not as successful as it intended to be in the Soviet Union, the effort and thought was there. And Beveridge wanted to use this money to help pay for children to be born. So families can get compensation if they have multiple children and the children will remain healthy, very similar to Stalin again. So the questions, I have would be, is this a fair comparison to make? And in the end, who’s plan was more successful or had the more potential for success?

Survival in Auschwitz

We have thoroughly explored how racist policies were slowly augmented over time in Nazi Germany. Even with this rise of anti-Semitic policies, Hitler and the Nazi party were able to win the hearts and minds of the German people while simultaneously crushing the Jewish community in Germany and all over the territory Hitler conquered during the war. In his memoir, Levi says, “To destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one: it has not been easy, nor quick, but you Germans have succeeded” (p 150). At this point in the memoir, it seems as though Levi is accepting that the Germans had succeeded in destroying the will of the Jewish people to defy the Nazis and live on. While the treatment of the Jews under some of Hitler’s earlier racist laws was definitely terrible, the degrading and despicable treatment of Jews in camps like Auschwitz takes this to a whole new level. With this, do you agree with the assessment that the Nazis successfully “destroyed” the will of Jews like Levi?

Survival in Auschwitz

Throughout Primo Levi’s description of his own personal experience as a concentration camp prisoner during the Nazi regime, he constantly refers to the way on which he experienced his suffering. He definitely lived under a condition of dispossession, not only concerning material goods, but mostly on a state of mind on which he sometimes felt dispossessed of his humanity, of his own identity. He also explains how people at his same situation drifted between two extremes, among pessimism and optimism. By the end of the chapter “Initiation” he mentions something very important: “We are slaves, deprived of every night, exposed to every insult … but we still posses one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last – the power to refuse our consent” (p. 36). Under this framework, what can we say about what it means for men and women to struggle for daily survival at some of the darkest moments in the history of humanity? How can the will to live, the conscience of an own identity, and more importantly; of an own intentionality at exercising our will can potentially help us preserve our dignity, identity and faith during the darkest moments? How can this consciousness relieve the psychological impact of seen ourselves been physically and mentally subjugated to the power of a bloody regime?

Hitler’s New Order

One point that Mazower mentions in this chapter is the way the more dominant European powers like Britain allowed Hitler and Germany to become so powerful . He says, “Mistrust of German power was blended with admiration for their economic recovery” (pp 140-141). Other than admiration for its recovery after World War I, are there any other reasons why the allies  stood by when Hitler began to completely ignore the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles? Mazower also explores Hitler’s disorganized plan regarding territory he never thought Germany would capture. If Hitler and the Nazis had more intricate plans of governance prior to implementing Blitzkrieg and quickly conquering country after country, would they have emerged from World War II victorious with a vast German Empire? Would it have been possible to maintain long-term control of such a diverse collection of cultures under the rigid Nazi system?

Olitskaia, My Reminiscences

In My Reminiscences by Ekaterine Olitskaia, the part of realization when the women were brought out of the train cars and saw that “Cattle” was written on them was truly horrendous. (432) As Olitskaia mentioned, some of the women were upset by this while others, like herself, were not too bothered by the statement. (432) Why do you think it was necessary for the guards to have written “Cattle” on the sides of the cars? To protect them women from possible treats from “non-traitors” or to make sure no one tried to rescue them? Also, why were some of the women upset over being labeled as cattle while others did not care?

The crisis of capitalism in the XXI century

Throughout chapter 4 of Dark Continent, The Crisis of Capitalism we could see the disastrous consequences of what WWI meant over the economic sphere of Europe. In spite of a rapid and partial stabilization, this was quickly succeeded by the 1929 crisis that hit the world economy in many ways. Curious but still somehow afraid of the economic projects lead by both communist and fascists regimes during the 1930’s, most of the western world, lead by the thought of figures as John M. Keynes, started arguing the impossibility of continuing with an economic model based on the traditional paradigms of liberal capitalism (p. 137) . Characterized by a strong role of the state over the economy, and taking some elements from those other economic adventures previously mentioned; Keynes’ and others’ ideas lead the way to much of what during the 1930’s and strongly during the 1950’s became known as the welfare state economy. In American History, for example, this became, undeniably, one of the most successful epochs in terms of social progress.

However,the modern world has rapidly turned back to a capitalist system based on an extreme liberalization of markets (notably in America during the 1980’s and on). This phenomenon not only has caused a rapid growth of global inequality as it has never been seen before, but also, and as remarkable economists as Stiglitz, Piketty or Wolff have showed; it could also explain the world economic recession of 2008. If the traditional and modern methods of liberalism are proving once again to be problematic in many senses, how should we address these risks in economic terms trough the lens of history? What can we learn from history in terms of state-oriented economic planning under these vary same circumstances that we face today?