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The 'Problem' of National Minorities in East-Central Europe, 1918-49 - HIS00057C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hugo Service
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

Emerging from the wreckage of the once powerful empires of central and eastern Europe at the end of the First World War, the new and consolidating nation-sates of this region faced challenges and crises in the next two decades which would have troubled even the stablest and wealthiest of states. In the eyes of East-Central European governments and elites, some of the most serious difficulties stemmed from the ethnic diversity of their states and from the fact that many members of their own national groups were living as minorities in neighbouring states. This module will probe into this 'problem' of national minorities. It will offer students the opportunity to study how minorities were treated by East-Central European societies and governments in the interwar period, why they treated them in this way, and what representatives of these minorities sought to do to improve their situation. Students will also examine the differing conceptions of nationhood and collective identity for majority nationalities and minorities alike – and how this influenced their aspirations, decisions and actions.

Students will begin by examining the historical background to the interwar ‘problem’ of national minorities – the crumbling of central and eastern European empires in the decades before the First World War and the attempt to implement the principle of national self-determination at the end of that war. They will then study this complex bundle of issues in the interwar decades on a country-by-country basis – examining these issues from multiple perspectives. Finally, students will examine the ethnic cleansing carried out under Nazi hegemony during the Second World War and under Soviet domination in the war’s aftermath

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into an unfamiliar period and/or approach to history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have further developed work undertaken in the Autumn Term lecture courses and skills portfolios, including historical analysis, note-taking, using primary sources, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars;
  • Be able to construct a coherent historical argument in oral and written forms

Module content

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over nine weeks, plus an overview and revision session in Week 2 of Summer Term. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion. 

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

Spring Term

1. Introductory session

2. The 'problem' of national minorities at the end of WWI

3. Poland

4. Czechoslovakia

5. Hungary

6. Romania

7. Yugoslavia

8. Nazi Germany and East-Central Europe's German minorities

9.' Solving' the minority 'problem' through ethnic cleansing, 1939-49

Summer Term

2.         Overview and revision


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
The 'Problem' of National Minorities in East-Central Europe, 1918-49
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

During the Spring Term students will prepare a presentation in pairs or small groups. Tutors will determine the formative work for the course: all groups will present either on a primary source or on an assigned historiographical question. Formative work will be completed in one or more sessions at the tutor’s discretion.

Summative assessment:

An open exam in the Common Assessment Period, comprising one essay question chosen from five options


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
The 'Problem' of National Minorities in East-Central Europe, 1918-49
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following

Mazower, Mark. Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century. London: Penguin, 1998.

Rothschild, Joseph. East Central Europe between the Two World Wars. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1974.


The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students