This course is discontinued

HIS4358 – Genocide in Historical Context

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

The twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of state-sponsored, ideologically driven violence against the civil population. The intent to physically destroy certain groups of people sets genocide apart from other forms of internationally punishable crimes. The Nazi murder of Jews, the mass murder of Tutsis in Rwanda, and many other cases testify to the deplorable recurrence of genocide in the past century. The first attempt to prevent genocide was made in 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However, it did not deter potential génocidaires from committing this heinous crime. The recurrent nature of genocide is one of the main themes of this course.
The course consists of two parts. During the first seven weeks we will be looking at individual case studies from Europe, Africa, and Asia. The case studies include German South West Africa (Namibia) in 1903-04; the Soviet Union under Stalin, 1928-1953; Nazi policies of extermination, 1939-1945; Khmer Rouge Cambodia, 1975-1979; the former Yugoslavia, 1992-1995; Rwanda, 1994; and Sudan since 2003. In the following weeks we will be examining particular aspects of genocide such as hate language and propaganda; the role of the state and bureaucracy; genocide denial; prevention and punishment of genocide.

Learning outcome

This course seeks to explain the root causes of genocide. Embedded in the comparative method, the course will assess the long-term consequences of genocide and the possibilities for redress. By analyzing the differences among genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of human rights, students will learn how to recognize genocide. Through individual case studies, students will be able to distinguish the different stages of genocide and to identify the patterns of destruction. A comparative analysis of specific aspects of genocide will enable to illuminate certain traits of individual and collective behaviour. In addition to historical method, the course would make use of sociological, anthropological, and legal theories relevant to the study of genocide. The geographical and methodological scope of the course would appeal to students with different academic interests.


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Formal prerequisite knowledge

Admission to the mastersprogramme in History.

Higher Education Entrance Qualification for 2000-level courses (bachelor’s courses),
admission to master’s degree programme in history for 4000-level courses (master's courses)

Recommended previous knowledge

All readings are in English


The main form of instruction is seminar. Two-hour seminars are conducted on a weekly basis, for 12 weeks in total.

Research Seminars at the Norwegian Holocaust Center (HL-senteret) at Bygdøy.
Two of the seminar meetings will take place at the Norwegian Holocaust Center at Bygdøy


Students assessed by a six-hour written examination.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English. If you would prefer to have the exam text in English, you may apply to the course administrators.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course




Autumn 2009

Autumn 2008


Autumn 2009

Autumn 2008

Teaching language