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the history of genocide



Course Dates:

June 2 - June 13, 2014

Course times:

10:00 to 12:00 and 1:30 - 3:30

please note:

This intensive two-week course meets June 16 - 20 and June 23 - 27 for four hours each day (from 10:00 - 12:00 and 1:30 - 3:30).

hist 4591: the history of genocide


The twentieth century was characterized by repeated episodes of one-sided, state-sponsored mass killing.  When such killing targets ethnic, religious, or national groups - as it did in Anatolia during World War I (the Armenians), in Europe during World War II (the Jews, the Roma and Sinti), and in Rwanda in 1994 (the Tutsis) - it is known under international law as genocide. 

In this intensive reading and discussion course, we will engage primary sources from twentieth-century genocides, key works of scholarship from the disciplines of social psychology, anthropology, political science, and history, and relevant documentary films in an effort to understand the complex but tragically recurring process whereby ordinary people -- people like you and me -- are transformed in specific historical circumstances into genocidal killers. 

There are no prerequisites for the course, which fulfills the College’s Historical Studies Area Requirement and may be applied toward the History major or minor.

Requirements include attendance at all class meetings, active and thoughtful participation in class discussions, and a final, timed, take-home essay.

Assignments for the course likely will include excerpts from the following books: Taner Akcam, A Shameful Act (ISBN 0-80-508665-X); Hannah Arendt, Eichmann and The Holocaust (0-14-303760-9); Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men, with a new Afterword (0-06-099506-8); Jan Gross, Neighbors (0-14-200240-2); Jean Hatzfeld, Machete Season (0-312-42503-1); Alexander Hinton, Why Did They Kill? (0-520-24179-7); Scot Straus, The Order of Genocide (0801474922); Benjamin Valentino, Final Solutions (0-8014-7273-3); James Waller, Becoming Evil (0-19-531456-5); Eric Weitz, Century of Genocide (0-691-12271-7); Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (0-8129-7444-1). Films that are likely to be assigned in whole or in part include: Genocide and the Second Reich (BBC, dir. David Olusaga, 2005); The Armenian Genocide (PBS/Frontline, dir. Andrew Goldberg, 2006); The Wannsee Conference (dir. Heinz Schirk, 1984); The Trial of Adolf Eichmann (ABC News, 1997); S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (dir. Rithy Pan, 2003); The Ghosts of Rwanda (PBS/Frontline, dir. Greg Barker, 2004); Obedience (prod. Stanley Milgram, 1965); and Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment (dir. Ken Musen, 1988).

Tuition and Fees:

Virginia Resident

Tuition $334 per Credit
Summer Fee  
Virginia Resident Total

Non Virginia Resident

Tuition $1,176.00 per Credit
Summer Fee  
Non-Virginia Total Costs


Jeffrey Rossman,
Associate Professor of History
Director, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES)