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A History of Genocide

Third Year Module

Module Leader: Dr Edward Packard

This module is designed to teach students both the importance and limitations of history as an academic discipline, and the dangers of history when misused in the construction of national and other group identities. In studying genocide, the attempt to annihilate people because of their membership of a real or perceived group, students are forced to confront core disciplinary issues. Are the historians tools adequate to explain this phenomenon? Is it possible to compare episodes of genocide? Why have lawyers and scholars disagreed over the fundamental definition of genocide? How are modernity and progress related to the perpetration of mass atrocities? How have societies constructed us and them dichotomies of difference and how have these been mobilized in genocidal projects? Can our historical understanding of genocide be enhanced through engagement with other disciplines such as anthropology and psychology? How do supposedly ordinary people become genocidal killers? Why has the international community failed to prevent genocides? It is unlikely that students will enjoy studying the history of genocide. On the other hand, it is almost certain that each student will finish the module with a different perspective on world history and human society.

The module approaches the problem of genocide from three main angles. First, it explores the causes and course of various episodes of genocide throughout world history, using a comparative approach. The core case studies are Armenia, the Jewish Holocaust, Cambodia and Rwanda, as well as pre-1900 genocides (particularly Native Americans). Students will also critically assess the study of genocide and how this subject has prompted enormous scholarly debate and disagreement both in history and other fields. This aspect of the course is designed to challenge and enhance students pre-existing historiographical skills and encourage interdisciplinary awareness. Students will also consider the uses and abuses of genocide history, such as genocide memorials and Holocaust denial. Genocide is a topic of enormous contemporary relevance, with implications for the construction of national identity and the responsibilities of the international community. Therefore, students will analyse how the memory of genocide has been used and abused for political and other ends. Students will also discuss artistic and other cultural representations of genocides. The course concludes by asking students whether historical understanding can help us to prevent genocide in the future.

Learning and Teaching Strategies:

This module will be delivered through a combined weekly lecture andseminar plus tutorial support.Where appropriate supporting resources will also be made available online. Seminar sessionswillbe designed to encourage student participation and will support students in strengthening their skills of presentation, discussion,argument anddebate,and in evaluating, interpreting and using secondary and primary sources.




Weighting %


Submission Date

A History of Genocide

Individual presentation



10 minutes and handouts of not less than 2 sides of A4

As scheduled


Document commentary


2,500 words

Week 7



3,000 words

Week 12

Indicative reading:

N.B. Advice on recommended book purchases for this module will be given to students at the start of term.

D.Bloxham and A. Dirk Moses (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, (Oxford, 2010).

A.Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, (London, 2010).

B.Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Rwanda, (New Haven CT, 2009).


Further Reading

N.B. A full reading list is included in a module handbook which will be provided in the first week of teaching

T.Akcam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, (New York, 2007).

D.Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide, (Oxford, 2007).

D.Bloxham, Genocide on Trial: War Crime Trials and the Formation of Holocaust History and Memory, (Oxford, 2003).

C.Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, (London, 2001).

D.Chirot and C.McCaulay, Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder, (Princeton NJ, 2006).

J.Docker, The Origins of Violence: Religion, History and Genocide, (London, 2008).

R.Gellatley et al, (ed.), The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, (Cambridge, 2003).

M.Gilbert, The Holocaust, (London, 1989).

A.L. Hinton, Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide, (Berkeley CA, 2002).

K.D.Jackson, Rendezvous with Death: Cambodia 1975-8, (Princeton NJ, 1992).

O.Jensen, (ed.), Ordinary People as Mass Murderers: Perpetrators in Comparative Perspectives, (Basingstoke, 2008).

I.Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans and the Final Solution, (New Haven CT, 2009).

B.Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide under the Khmer Rouge 1975-79, (New Haven CT, 2008).

M.Levene, Genocide in the Age of the Nation State, Vols. I-II, (London, 2008).

M.Mamdani, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, (London, 2009).

M.Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing, (Cambridge, 2004).

D.E.Miller, Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide, (Berkeley CA, 1999).

A.Dirk Moses, Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History, (New York, 2010).

A.Dirk Moses, Colonialism and Genocide, (London, 2007).

A.Dirk Moses (ed.), Genocide, (London, 2010).

G.Prunier, The Rwandan Crisis: History of a Genocide, (London, 1998).

G.Prunier, Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, (London, 2005).

G.Sereny, Into that Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, (London, 1995).

M.Shaw, War and Genocide: Organised Killing in Modern Society, (Cambridge, 2003).

J.E.Waller, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People commit Genocide and Mass Murder, (Oxford, 2007).