Political Crisis and Radical Change in Recent History

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Charles S. Maier (Department of History)
Freshman Seminar 72L         4 credits (spring term)          Enrollment:  Limited to 12

All societies experience political disagreement and some degree of social conflict.  Not all of these difficult passages lead to violence or a change of regime.  How do we judge when governments are close to collapse and what outcomes might we expect?  Were alternative outcomes possible?  Can we separate the impact of long-term or “underlying” conditions from immediate provocations?

In an effort to answer these questions, this seminar will focus on some spectacular cases of political crisis in recent history that have brought down both democratic and authoritarian regimes—sometimes after long periods of strain but often unexpectedly.  In some cases, these crises led to democratic advances, but we will also consider crises in which serious unrest was finally repressed or dissipated (e.g. in Paris 1968, China 1989, the Arab Spring, 2011).  Students will be asked to strategize as well as analyze.

See also: Spring 2021