Cultural history of violence


Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

Cultural History

Course code: 51

Year of Study: Without

Course principal:
Assoc. Prof. Petra Svoljšak, Ph.D.


Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: general elective

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminar

Objectives and competences:

The course offers an introduction to different definitions of war, military law and systematic breach of military law, systems of occupational politics that enabled systematic violence against civilians, individually and collectively. Students will approach the roles of stereotypes, one of collective memory’s basic phenomena as implemented in narratives, rituals and art, and the galvaniser of the violent relationship between the army/soldiers and opponents, predominantly civilians. The 20th century wars shifted in focus relegating violence from the battlefield to the civil sphere. The world wars intensified violence against civilians to unprecedented dimensions.





Content (Syllabus outline)

The lectures, excursions, visits to museums and other types of thematisation of the topic will give the students an opportunity to understand the violence triggered by the 20th world wars. The world wars are the reason why the 20th century is often referred to as the Century of Wars, wars being the most visible marker despite the great discoveries and innovations. The world wars of the 20th century, along the many “local” wars, established violence, predominantly against civilians, as one of the basic postulates of war. The violence shifted from the sphere of the battle into civilian sphere, making civilians the prime opponents. Mass violence against civilians first emerged during the Great War, increased during the Second World War and has not subsided since. Although humanity had lived through the Hundred Years’ War and that the beginning of the 17th century was marked by the Thirty Years’ War that devastated much of Central Europe, the war violence brought about during the world wars is unprecedented.

In the introduction, other forms of violence will be discussed, primarily the violence related to the European colonial past – colonisation of Australia, African and the Americas. We will focus on questions of collective violence exerted by one group against another, and try to understand violence as constitutive part of social dynamics. In certain cases we will focus on questions of responsibility, i.e. individual violence, e.g. commanders and totalitarian leaders of the 20th century. The main focus, however, will be on the Great War as the corollary of the Balkan Wars and the reason for the Second World War.



  • Chickering Roger and Förster Stig (ed.). 2007. The shadows of total war: Europe, East Asia, and the United States, 1919 – 1939. Washington: German historical institute; Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
  • Fussell, Paul. 2013. Velika vojna in moderni spomin. Ljubljana: Studia humanitatis.
  • Higonnet Margaret Randolph (ed.). 1987. Behind the Lines: Gender and the two World Wars. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. 2004. Age of extremes: the short twentieth century: 1914-1991. London: Abacus.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. 2009. Nations and nationalism since 1780: programme, myth, reality. Cambridge [etc.]: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. 2004. Zanimivi časi: moje doživetje 20. stoletja. Ljubljana: Sophia.
  • Horn, John, Kramer Allan. 2001. German atrocities, 1914: a history of denial. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
  • Mazower, Mark. 2002. Temna celina: dvajseto stoletje v Evropi. Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga. 
  • Smith Helmut Walser, Booth William James [et al. ] (eds.). 2002. The Holocaust and other genocides: history, representation, ethics. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. 
  • Svoljšak, Petra. 2003. Soča, sveta reka: italijanska zasedba slovenskega ozemlja (1915-1917). Ljubljana: Nova revija.
  • Winter, Jay. 1998. The Experience of World War I. London: Macmillan.



The student must pass a written exam covering the entire course in order to test competence acquired in classes and to demonstrate comprehension and articulation of study material.


Cultural history of violence ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Petra Svoljšak, Ph.D.,


History, Identity and Popular Culture ǀ

Assist. Prof. Ana Hofman, Ph.D.,


Media, memory and history ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Petra Svoljšak, Ph.D.,


Memory and History ǀ

Prof. Oto Luthar, Ph.D.,


National Memory in Historical Perspective ǀ

Prof. Oto Luthar, Ph.D.,


Remembering Socialism in Central and Southeastern Europe ǀ

Prof. Tanja Petrović, Ph.D.,