Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Genocide in the 20th Century HIST4255

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

In this module, students will engage with historical approaches to the study of genocide and related mass atrocities that have occurred in the 20th century. Case studies will include internationally recognized examples of genocide, such as the Armenian genocide of 1915-1922; the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe from 1939-1945, and the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as well as more controversial examples, such as Germany's 'race war' against the Herero and Nama peoples of modern-day Namibia from 1904-1908; the Khmer Rouge-perpetrated auto-genocide in Cambodia from 1975-1979; the scorched earth policies in Guatemala from 1981-1983; the ethnic cleansing and related atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian War from 1992-1995, and the Canadian residential school system that existed from 1867 to 1996. These case studies will provide a foundation for discussing contemporary issues related to the labelling of mass atrocities, the evolution of international legal, diplomatic, economic and military measures to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, and the commemoration of mass human rights violations, among other key themes within the broader field of genocide studies.


10x1hr lectures; 10x1hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled in MyCampus. This one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Examination (120 minute duration) - 50%

Essay (2,000 words) - 40%

Reading Responses - (5x250 words) - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ Engage with a number of examples of genocide across the 20th century and across a wide range of geographic and cultural settings;

■ Act as professional historians by conducting independent and small-group group analysis of primary sources, informed by secondary readings, and writing carefully considered essays and related coursework;

■ Gain familiarity with some of the key challenges that historians face in analysing primary sources related to genocide and other mass atrocities; 

■ Practice applying past and present legal prohibitions to different cases of mass human rights violations;

■ Engage in informed student-led discussion on key themes related to the study of genocide in different settings;

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Identify and discuss in a critical manner key theoretical and historiographic issues concerning the study of genocide and related mass atrocities in the 20th century;

■ Identify shifts in public attitudes and international policies on genocide and related mass atrocities;

■ Critically evaluate and interpret primary sources related to genocide, and integrate them into analysis of secondary historical writings to produce informed conclusions on a given case study;

■ Evaluate the various controversies that surround policy, academic, and public discourses related to genocide and related mass atrocities;

■ Work independently and in small groups to evaluate primary sources on genocide and related mass atrocities in order to work efficiently in class discussions.

■ Draw informed conclusions about how genocide and related mass atrocities take shape within a community, and the long-term legacies of such violence for surviving communities.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.