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HIS 155 — Leaders Who Made the 20th Century

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Jan 16—Feb 13
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jan 29
Unit: 1
Tuition: $305
Instructor(s): David Kennedy, James Sheehan
Status: Open
Please Note: Grade restriction: No letter grade
7:00—8:50 pm
Jan 16—Feb 13
5 weeks
Drop By
Jan 29
1 Unit
David Kennedy, James Sheehan
Please Note: Grade restriction: No letter grade
When Napoleon was asked what kind of generals he preferred, he allegedly replied, “lucky ones.” How much does the success or failure of leaders depend on luck, on circumstance, or on their own distinctive qualities of mind and spirit? Are even the most commanding and assertive personalities in fact swept along by forces beyond their control? Or do some extraordinary individuals possess the ability and will to master events, to bend the arc of history and leave lasting legacies—whether honorable or horrific?

David M. Kennedy and James Sheehan will consider these questions by pairing and comparing the careers of several leaders who engaged the episodes that shaped the 20th century: V.I. Lenin and Woodrow Wilson, Adolf Hitler and Franklin Roosevelt, Josef Stalin and Harry Truman, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

After an introductory session on the nature of leadership, Kennedy and Sheehan will analyze how the life trajectories of these leaders often fatefully intersected, and how they responded to the century’s major events: war and revolution in the World War I era; the crises of the Great Depression and World War II from 1933 to 1945; the origins of the American-Soviet superpower rivalry in the aftermath of World War II; and the end of the Cold War in 1989.

David Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus, Stanford

David Kennedy, one of the nation’s most distinguished American historians, is the author or editor of more than ten books on American history, including Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. He has been a frequent contributor to The Atlantic and The New York Times. He received a PhD from Yale.

James Sheehan, Dickason Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Modern European History, Emeritus, Stanford

James Sheehan is an expert on the history of modern Europe, and has written widely on the history of Germany, including four books and many articles. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He has received many grants and awards, including the Officer’s Cross of the German Order of Merit. He is a past president of the American Historical Association. His book, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe, was published in 2009. Sheehan received a PhD from UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

(Suggested) William Taubman, Gorbachev: His Life and Times (2017) (ISBN 978-0393647013)
(Suggested) Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 2 Volume Set (ISBN 9780393320350)
(Suggested) Robert Service, Lenin: A Biography (ISBN 9780674008281)
(Suggested) William Hitchcock, The Age of Eisenhower (Available March 2018) (ISBN 978-1439175668)
(Suggested) John Milton Cooper, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography  (ISBN 978-0307277909)
(Suggested) Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, A Political Life (ISBN 978-0525427902 )
(Suggested) David McCullough, Truman  (ISBN 978-0671869205)
(Suggested) Lou Canon, Ronald Reagan, A Life in Politics (ISBN 978-1586482633)
(Suggested) James MacGregor, Leadership (ISBN 978-0061965579)
(Suggested) Archie Brown, The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age (ISBN 978-0465027668)