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Revolutionary Movements in the Modern World


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Topics

The twentieth century has been an age of revolutions, violence, and upheavals that have radically transformed the lives of millions of men and women.  In the wake of the devastating terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent United States interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans have become increasingly concerned to understand the nature, development, and significance of such movements.

This course will begin by presenting a film depicting a classic revolutionary situation and by discussing some of the major theories of how and why revolutionary movements occur.  Then we shall focus on four key twentieth-century upheavals--the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Communist Revolution, the Vietnam War, and the more recent revolutionary movements in Central America (especially Nicaragua and El Salvador).

In each case, we shall consider three primary questions: (l) What were the preconditions for the revolution or upheaval?  (2) How was power seized? (3) What pattern of development did the movement take after the seizure of power?  Special emphasis will be placed on the relationship between individual leadership and larger social forces in these movements, as well as on the policy questions that these upheavals raise for the United States.

Many different approaches have been taken toward the study of revolutions and other profound social and political transformations.  On the one hand, critics of revolutions have dismissed them as an aberration and an inappropriate response to social disorder, and have sought to keep revolutions from happening or to defeat them when they occur.  On the other hand, supporters of revolution, most notably various Marxists, have waxed enthusiastic about revolutions and have tried to instigate and direct revolutionary change based on elaborate theories of historical development. 

Our approach in this course will be somewhat more modest than either the pro- or anti-revolutionary theorists.  Following the lead of Crane Brinton in his Anatomy of Revolution, we shall attempt to formulate some tentative generalizations about the process of change in four twentieth-century revolutionary movements and to suggest the broader significance such movements may have in the modern world.

HTS 3067 course taken at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Strategy

Lesson Learned: Practice many problems and question variations of it and what could go wrong.

Course Materials

  • Cribsheet [ Main PDF Format]
  • Exams [ Main PDF Format]
  • readings [ Main PDF Format]
  • Homeworks [ Main PDF Format]
  • Book Review on " More Terrible Than Death: Drugs, Violence, and America's War in Colombia" by Robin Kirk [ Main PDF Format]
  • Syllabus [ Main PDF Format]