HIST202 - Decline and Fall of Great Powers

Description: 
This seminar will be an exercise in comparative historical perspective. Our principal text will be Paul Kennedy’s 1987 bestseller The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that argued great nations and empires invariably decline due to “imperial overstretch.” His warning was meant for the United States which under the Reagan administration ran large deficits to fund a military build-up even as its manufacturing economy was hollowed out. Yet within four years it was the Soviet empire that ceased to exist! Revisiting Kennedy’s thesis today gives us the chance to compare the way the world looked when the Spanish, Austrian, French, British, and German empires declined, the way the world looked at the time Kennedy wrote, and the way the world looks in 2013, when the United States appears to have dug itself into a far deeper hole and China is the great power on the rise. Can particular economic, institutional, demographic, or moral pathologies account for the phenomenon of decline? If so, can such patterns even be discerned, much less reversed? We shall study Kennedy, his critics, and 21st century historians such as Niall Ferguson in search of tentative answers. Students must keep up with considerable reading loads, but otherwise the only assignment will be a term paper on a topic of their choosing (subject to the approval of the instructor). ******************* INTERESTED STUDENTS MUST SUBMIT AN APPLICATION TO PROFESSOR MCDOUGALL, BY EMAIL OR IN PERSON, BY NOVEMBER 7. Admitted students will be automatically enrolled AFTER Advance Registration. There is no need to request the course during Advance Registration. The application is linked below.
Instructors: 
MCDOUGALL, WALTER
Day and Time: 
T 0130PM-0430PM
Room: 
MCNEIL CENTER FOR EARLY AMERI 105
Activity: 
SEM
Cross Listings: 
    Registration Notes: 
    MAJORS ONLY; PERMISSION NEEDED FROM INSTRUCTOR