In the face of an international system shaken by the Arab Spring and the Euromaidan Revolution on the one hand and global economic shocks on the other, now is an opportune time to reflect on previous cases of revolutionary upheavals that began in one geographical location and quickly “went global.” This course considers both the American and the French Revolutions in this light before proceeding into a forensic account of the many strands of global revolution entangled in the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the Soviet Union in the years 1989-1991. In addition to the end of Communism in Europe, students will examine a failed student revolution in the People’s Republic of China, the rise of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the collapse of dictatorships in Latin America. With an eye toward its 18th-century antecedents, this course’s focus on the global transformations of the 1980s and 1990s will provide students with the analytical toolkit needed to think in global perspective about the interconnectivity of recent events in Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and elsewhere.

Students will be assessed on their ability to develop – individually and in teams, in written and in oral expression – innovative approaches to the themes raised in the readings, films, and class discussions. The course’s final paper will require original primary-source research drawing on the wealth of DC-area resources, from the US National Archives (located in College Park) to the many NGOs, US government agencies, and foreign diplomatic posts scattered around the area.