Europe's Age of Civil Wars? On the dynamics of violence, 1912-1949

Professor Robert Gerwarth

University College Dublin

In the first half of the twentieth century, Europe experienced an unparalleled pandemic of civil wars resulting in millions of deaths. Civil war, as much as inter-state war, was a defining feature of the period for many European societies, ranging from Ireland in the west to Russia in the east, and from Finland in the north to Spain and Greece in the south - and many more in-between. While civil war had been a prominent and recurring element of modern Europe's history, from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, they acquired a particular density in an era which has come to be primarily associated with the inter-state conflicts of the two world wars. This two-part lecture series will explore some of the connections between these seemingly unconnected national, imperial and regional struggles, within which the dividing lines lay as much within societies as between them. 

The first lecture will discuss how civil wars reflected broader socio-economic, ethnic and ideological conflicts within Europe’s systemic mid-century crisis and how they contributed to both discourses about and practices of transgressive violence in the ‘age of extremes’, including the civilianization and paramilitarization of armed conflict and the emergence of radical population politics such as partitions and expulsions which were initially introduced to prevent civil wars. 


There will be a drinks reception after the lecture.

Places are limited, so please confirm your attendance by emailing


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Robert Gerwarth is Professor of Modern History at University College Dublin and Director of UCD’s Centre for War Studies. In 2021-22 he is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Oxford. He has published widely on the history of political violence in twentieth-century Europe, including a history of the aftermath of the Great War, The Vanquished, a new history of the German November Revolution of 1918 and a biography of Reinhard Heydrich, the chief organizer of the Holocaust. He is also the general editor of OUP’s Greater War series, and, with Jay Winter, general editor of CUP’s Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare series.