The Origins and Outbreak of the First World War

Course summary

  • Tue 17 Apr 2018 to Tue 19 Jun 2018
  • 2:00-4:00pm 10 meetings
  • Ewert House, Ewert Place, Oxford, OX2 7DD
  • From £199.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O17P434HIW
  • +44 (0)1865 280892
  • In progress - closed to new applications

The Origins and Outbreak of the First World War


The First World War was a cataclysmic event in world history. It led to enormous loss of life and tremendous physical damage of towns and cities. This course examines the origins of this terrible conflict. Initially the course will examine the nature of international relations before 1914 and the politics, social structures and economies of the states which were the main participants in the war.

The course will analyse the specific events which eventually pushed the world into an unprecedented international war. At the outbreak of war we will consider the expectations of the populations of the countries involved and the way in which the brutal reality of the conflict shattered these illusions during 1915.

Finally we will assess the significance of the First World War in the history of the twentieth century. To what extent do we still live with the consequences of that human tragedy today

Programme details

Term Starts:   17th April          

Week 1: The Quest for Empire

Week 2: Economic Rivalries

Week 3: France and Britain

Week 4: The Russian Empire and Asia

Week 5: Germany

Week 6: Austro-Hungary and the Balkans

Week 7: Countdown to Conflict

Week 8: 1914: Into the Maelstrom

Week 9: 1915: Reality Dawns

Week 10: The 'Great War'


Background Reading:

Clark, Christopher, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914

Joll James and Martel, Gordon, The Origins of the First World War

MacMillan, Margaret, The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War

Mombauer, Annika, The Origins of the First World War: Controversies and Consensus

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List



Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course fee: £199.00
Take this couse for CATS points: £10.00


Mr Carl Wade

Carl Wade originally studied history at Jesus College, Cambridge. He has written and taught courses for OUDCE since 2004 in modern European and German history.

Course aims

The aim of the course is to analyse the origins of the First World War and to assess how the war developed after 1914.

Course objectives

 1. To examine the historical background which led to the outbreak of the First World War, and to explore the political, social and economic reasons which caused the conflict to occur.

2.  It also seeks to establish how the war developed during its early years.

3. Extensive use will be made of  a variety of original visual and documentary materials to illuminate the developments and debates of the period, and to encourage students to engage with those arguments and debates.

Teaching methods

Teaching will involve verbal presentations and introductions to the topics as well as Power Point delivered illustrations. Particular emphasis will be put on student input and interaction verbally. Contemporary written and visual sources will be used as a regular focus for discussion. At the end of each week students will be handed some written material to introduce them to the topics and themes of the following week, and provide guidance for further relevant reading in their own time. They will be encouraged to utilise the department’s library resources to find relevant materials themselves, so that self-study can be pursued to the maximum possible degree.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to :

1. Have an understanding and knowledge of the chronology of events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.

2. Demonstrate an ability to assess and evaluate a variety of arguments and sources with reference to the period, and to be able to express their views interacting with other students and in written form.

3. Become familiar with the structures of academic learning and be confident expressing their argument in a group environment.

Assessment methods

It will be expected that all students will complete, to a satisfactory standard, one assessment consisting of one essay of approximately 1500 words.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)