Study Contemporary History with our Oxford Summer School 2018 | Students aged 16-18

Also available for students aged 13-15.

Class Summary

This History course takes students through the most important global events and processes which have taken place since the end of the Second World War. During the two-week duration of the course, students will examine some of the key moments in the Cold War, as well as the decolonisation of Africa and Asia, the rise of modern China, conflict in the Middle East, and the international community’s response to terrorism.

The course also encourages students to think more like professional historians: students will read original primary sources, and be introduced to the debates which continue to divide historians about the best way in which to interpret events that continue to shape our world today. The class looks at processes which gave rise to major international bodies like the UN and the European Union. It also explores the most significant international conflicts of recent decades such as the Vietnam War and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Special emphasis is placed on the most recent events, including the rise of global terrorism and the Iraq war.

Each session on this course will consist of brief talks by the tutor, intended to provide students with background information on the subject, and group discussions. This course also uses video material from the British Pathé archive in order to bring the past to life. Asking questions and engaging in debate is very much supported, as this is a world history course, and each student, coming from a different home country and background, will be encourage to bring their own unique insights to the course.

Students will also learn how to structure a History essay and to collaborate with others in giving a group presentation. This course is focused on identifying themes, drawing connections and engaging in analysis of the past, not just rote learning of facts. As a consequence, it addresses not only the events of the past, but also historiography, or the study of the methodology of historians, in order to consider the factors that motivate different interpretations of and opinions on the past, to assess the value of History of a discipline, and to explain why the past should be studied at all. The course also uses its focus on contemporary History to consider how our view of events is formed as they unfold. In this way we can approach the study of History in a more sophisticated and analytical manner.


No previous formal study of the subject will be assumed, but students will be expected to contribute opinions and experiences in order to provide the class with a variety of viewpoints and opinions.

Suggested Reading

There is no compulsory reading required prior to the beginning of the course, but if you do want to look at an introductory guide which covers some of the topics, the following books are suitable:

  • Tom Buchanan, Europe’s Troubled Peace, 1945-2000 (2006)
  • Norman Lowe, Mastering Modern World History (2005)
  • John Gaddis, The Cold War (2006)