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2022

 
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VCE Humanities

Modern History Unit 1: Change & Conflict

Elective Unit

Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

In this unit, students investigate the nature of social, political, economic and cultural change in the later part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Modern History provides students with an opportunity to explore the significant events, ideas, individuals and movements that shaped the social, political, economic and technological conditions and developments that have defined the modern world.

The late 19th century marked a challenge to existing empires, alongside growing militarism and imperialism. Empires continued to exert their powers as they competed for new territories, resources and labour across Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Americas, contributing to tremendous change. This increasingly brought these world powers into contact and conflict. Modernisation and industrialisation also challenged and changed the existing political, social and economic authority of empires and states. During this time the everyday lives of people significantly changed.

World War One was a significant turning point in modern history. It represented a complete departure from the past and heralded changes that were to have significant consequences for the rest of the twentieth century. The post-war treaties ushered in a period where the world was, to a large degree, reshaped with new borders, movements, ideologies and power structures and led to the creation of many new nation states. These changes had many unintended consequences that would lay the foundations for future conflict and instability in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Economic instability caused by the Great Depression contributed to great social hardship as well as to the development of new political movements.

The period after World War I was characterised by significant social and cultural change in the contrasting decades of the 1920s and 1930s. New fascist governments used the military, education and propaganda to impose controls on the way people lived, to exclude particular groups of people and to silence criticism. In Germany, the persecution of the Jewish people became intensified. In the USSR, millions of people were forced to work in state-owned factories and farms and had limited personal freedom. Japan became increasingly militarised and anti-western. In the USA, the consumerism and material progress of the 1920s was tempered by the Great Crash of 1929. Writers, artists, musicians, choreographers and filmmakers reflected, promoted or resisted political, economic and social changes.

Areas of Study

Ideology and Conflict

  • How did significant events and ideas contribute to conflict and change?
  • How did individuals and movements challenge existing political and economic conditions? 
  • What were the consequences of World War One?
  • How did ideology influence the emergence of new nation states?
  • To what extent did the events, ideologies, individuals, movements and new nations contribute to the causes of World War Two?

In this area of study students focus on the events, ideologies, individuals and movements of the period that led to the end of empires and the emergence of new nation states before and after World War One; the consequences of World War One; the emergence of conflict; and the causes of World War Two. They investigate the impact of the treaties which ended the Great War and which redrew the maps of Europe and its colonies, breaking up the former empires of the defeated nations, such as the partitioning of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. They consider the aims, achievements and limitations of the League of Nations.

While democratic governments initially replaced the monarchies and authoritarian forms of government in European countries at the end of the war, new ideologies of socialism, communism and fascism gained popular support. Communism emerged in Russia/USSR after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Fascism first emerged in Italy when the Italian Fascist Party gained power in 1922, and before the end of the decade fascist parties existed in various countries around the world. In 1933, Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) gained power in Germany. In Japan, the government was increasingly influenced by the military and by anti-Western attitudes, shaping much of its political and social action, alongside growing imperial ambitions in Manchuria. In the wake of World War One, the USA pursued an isolationist policy. While the Roaring Twenties was a decade of economic growth, the 1930s saw considerable suffering as a result of the Great Depression, a global economic event that challenged and changed societies such as Germany and Australia.

As a result of the post-World War One treaties and despite the establishment of the League of Nations, the world became increasingly hostile and unstable. Widespread economic instability, failure of diplomacy, growing militarism and territorial aggression in Europe, Africa and Asia, along with totalitarianism, combined in 1939 to draw the world into a second major conflict.

In this area of study students may focus on one or more of the following contexts: Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia/USSR, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, the British Empire/United Kingdom and/or the USA.

Social and Cultural Change

  • How did society and culture change?
  • How did cultural life both reflect and challenge the prevailing political, economic and social conditions?
  • How did ideologies contribute to continuities and changes in society and culture?
  • What role did individuals, groups and movements play in social and cultural continuity and/or change?

In this area of study students focus on the social life and cultural expression in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, and their relation to the technological, political and economic changes of the period. Students explore particular forms of cultural expression from the period.

The period between the wars was characterised by significant social and cultural change. While the 1920s, a time in Western society known as the Roaring Twenties, was largely marked by optimism and material prosperity in the West and Japan, by contrast the thirties was a period of severe economic hardship for many, dominated by the impact of the Great Depression.

At the end of World War One, new governments in Italy, Germany and Japan led to the emergence of societies driven by new ideologies and, in some countries, the oppression and persecution of certain groups, most especially the Jewish community in Nazi Germany. In the USSR, the establishment of a communist regime in 1917 was initially greeted with support by a large proportion of the people, but under Stalin millions of people were forced to work in state-owned factories and farms and dissenters were sent to labour camps.

In the USA, during the decades between the wars, controls such as prohibition and race segregation affected the lives of many people, as did the presence of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. While the 1920s was characterised by material progress, new technologies, increased personal freedoms and unprecedented economic growth, the Great Depression brought hardship to many nations.

The creative arts both reflected and challenged social and political life and change in this period. Mass entertainment and information by means of radio and film became widespread.

In this area of study students may focus on one or more of the following contexts: Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia/USSR, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, the British Empire/United Kingdom and/or the USA.

Assessment

Outcomes
Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)

On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain how significant events, ideologies and individuals contributed to political and economic changes in the first half of the 20th century, and analyse how these contributed to the causes of World War Two.

  • a historical inquiry
  • an essay
  • a multimedia presentation.

On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain patterns of social and cultural change in everyday life in the first half of the twentieth century, and analyse the conditions which influenced these changes.

  • evaluation of historical sources
  • short-answer questions
  • extended responses

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: www.vcaa.vic.edu.au