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Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity

This module will give you an overview of Europe's twentieth-century history. It begins with Europe on the eve of the First World War and ends with the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War. As well as analysing political and military developments, it will introduce you to the key themes in Europe’s economic, social, medical and cultural history. A central focus of the module is how historians have studied the period. You'll be introduced to historical debates, and to the vast resources for the study of twentieth-century history that are now being made available online.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

Student Reviews

A challenging gallop through the 20th century from the origins of WW1 to the fall of communism in Europe. Covering...
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This is a fascinating module for anyone interested in 20th century European history. It covers a lot of ground from...
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What you will study

The three key themes of this module are the:

  • ways that war was waged in Europe and how this changed the continent
  • different forms of peace, which were always more than just an absence of war
  • industrial and technical transformation of the whole of Europe.

This module will open up the breathtaking variety of electronic resources on twentieth-century history which have transformed our ability to carry out historical research and scholarship wherever we are. It will teach you the skills of independent study through learning about this period, so you are able to see the big pictures more clearly, and know how to find out more for yourself.

Beginning with the First World War, which marked the end of the old order in Europe, you’ll study the war’s causes and the war itself. It was a period of technological advances, but inevitably this total war left its mark on every state in the continent, and destroyed many of them. It also enabled some existing socialist and nationalist movements to gain state power for the first time.

During the first half of the interwar period, it appeared that the crises arising from the First World War would be resolved largely within a framework of liberal democracy and internationalism. In the second half, under the stress of the world economic crisis, political systems buckled and the era became a consciously 'pre-war' one. Attempts in Italy, Germany and Russia to create fundamentally new societies achieved varying degrees of success at the cost of immense human damage. Despite the economic crises, technical and social changes continued throughout the period. You will gain an impression of these changes, as well as the ability to see their inter-relationships.

You'll learn about the causes of the Second World War, with an eye on the way that the historiography has developed over the century, and is not resolved even today. You will examine the relationship between war, society and technology via several case studies, including one on the development of penicillin. The history of medicine features in the module to illustrate wider points about social and technical history. The effects of the war on the post-war order will also be considered.

The Cold War was a total war of another kind, and the 'waging of peace' becomes a key theme in the second half of the module. Broadcasters and religions were mobilised in the struggle, as were more conventional socio-economic factors. Soviet-style Communism attempted to provide a coherent alternative to the liberal-democratic mainstream. The year 1968 was a watershed on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The momentum of both the Western European 'golden age' and the Eastern experiment with autarchic socialism had slowed down. In the final part of the Cold War, the West's (slowing) growth, and the more compelling social vision that it embodied, brought victory in 1989.

During the post-war period, competing Great Powers were (in theory) replaced by allied and integrating blocs. But was Great Power rivalry really dead?

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer online group tutorials that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably at the OU. You should already have some of the skills appropriate to studying history at this OU level. 

This module is open to all students who are suitably prepared. If you intend to study for the BA (Honours) History, you must have first successfully completed either Early modern Europe: society and culture c.1500-1780 (A223), The British Isles and the modern world, 1789–1914 (A225), or Exploring history: medieval to modern 1400–1900 (A200) (now discontinued).   

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You may find it helpful to do some background reading of the set book, Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century.


Start End England fee Register
28 Sep 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

01 Feb 2025 Sep 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2026.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 19/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll be provided with four printed module books, each covering one block of study, and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Mazower, M. Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century Penguin £12.99 - ISBN 9780140241594

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A327 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.