GOV 1190: The Politics of Europe

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Course Syllabus here: Syllabus Gov 1190-2.docx        



Teaching Staff: 

Course head: Professor Daniel Ziblatt                                         Teaching Fellow: Chiopris, Caterina

(contact:                                            (contact:          

Office hours @ zoom or in person 1:15-2 pm Wednesdays

Teaching Staff: Professor Daniel Ziblatt CaterinaChiopris-2-1.jpg






Professor Daniel Ziblatt

Fall 2021


This class examines dynamics of political and economic change in Europe from the medieval age to the present. Topics include European state-building, origins of democracy and representative government, the rise of European welfare states, and current dynamics of populism. We focus on major themes in European history such as the causes of revolution, the rise of Nazism and fascism in the 1930s, the postwar creation of the European Union and European welfare states, the contemporary decline of social democracy, and the causes of populism  in Europe today. The goal of the course is to place contemporary Europe into its broader historical context.

After taking this course, students will possess a knowledge of the political currents running through contemporary Europe, providing students with historical and analytical context for understanding contemporary European politics. The course is especially recommended for students who plan to do further work in comparative and European politics.

Three books available for purchase at the Harvard Coop:

Daniel Ziblatt, Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2018) [optional]

John Pinder and Simon Usherwood, The European Union: A Very Short Introduction (2013)

Barry Eichengreen, The Populist Temptation (Oxford University Press, 2018)



Readings not available in these three books are on the course website

Please note:   Given the nature of the course and of the examinations, you are strongly urged to do all reading in advance, as assigned on the reading list.  Failure to do so will impede your ability to profit from the lectures, and to perform well in section participation and on the examinations.  Notice that the quantity of readings varies from topic to topic.  You are strongly urged to read ahead when the reading load is lighter.


Requirements for the course are as follows:


One take-home essay (Midterm #1).  This is a 2500-3000 words (seven to ten pages) essay, in which you are asked to answer a question based on lectures, readings, and class discussion.  It is due at the start of class a week after essay questions is distributed.  The essay is due October 6 at 12 noon to your TF [20% of grade]

A one hour (timed) midterm examination (Midterm #2), to be taken October 29 in the time we normally we meet. The exam will have short IDs and be an essay question based on lectures, readings, and class discussions [30% of grade]

A two-hour (timed) final examination, dates to be determined at end of semester.  This has two parts. The first, like the second midterm asks you to identify and discuss the significance of important events, processes, and concepts contained in the course. The second part, asks you to write an essay in response to a longer analytical question [30% of grade]

Participation.  Participation in discussion section with TF. Active participation is a requirement [20% of grade]

Note: there will be several *extra credit* opportunities to watch several films during the semester on contemporary and historical Europe and provide short essay responses to the films. More information will be provided during the semester


Also, note: at several points in the semester, we will extra optional sessions on contemporary European events (Germany's election is in September, for example) where we will have zoom sessions with guest speakers (politicians, journalists, members of European parliaments etc.)

Professor Ziblatt’s coordinates


Office Hours: Wednesday 3-4 pm [online sign up will be provided]

 Academic Integrity. You are responsible for understanding Harvard’s policies on academic integrity and how to use sources responsibly. Stated most broadly, academic integrity means that all course work submitted, whether a draft or a final version of a paper, project, take-home exam, online exam, oral presentation, or report, must be your own words and ideas, or the sources must be clearly acknowledged. 


September 1: Introduction

September 3. What is the State?

Max Weber, Politics as Vocation, pp.77-82

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, “How Does History End” The Narrow Corridor (2020), pp. 1-27.


September 8. What is Democracy?  

Joseph Schumpeter, “The Classical Doctrine of Democracy” and “Another Theory of Democracy”, in Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy ([1943] Routledge, 2003), pp. 292-328


Robert Dahl, Polyarchy (Yale University Press, 1971), Chapter 1, pp. 1-9


September 10. Theories of European Political Development


Seymour Martin Lipset, “Some Social Requisites of Democracy” American Political Science Review 53 (1) 1959 [selections] pp. 69-85


Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. (2005). The rise of Europe: Atlantic trade, institutional change, and economic growth. American economic review, 95(3), 546-579.




September 15 Medieval Roots of Constitutionalism 


Brian Downing, “Medieval Origins of Constitutional Government in the West,” Theory and Society (1989) pp. 213-229


Gianfranco Poggi, “The Feudal System of Rule” and “The Staendestaat” in The Development of the Modern State: A Sociological Introduction (Stanford University Press, 1978) pp. 16-59





September 17: The Absolutist Alternative and its limits


Gianfranco Poggi, “The Absolutist System of Rule,” from The Development of the Modern State (1978), pp. 60-85.


Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, Eltjo Buringh, and Maarten Bosker. "The rise and decline of European parliaments, 1188–1789 1." The Economic History Review 65, no. 3 (2012): 835-861.


Thomas Ertman, “Political Regimes” Birth of Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 19-25


September 22: Religion and the Rise of the State


John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, (3rd edition) (2010), pp. 85-95; 98-103; 124-125.


Anna Gryamala Busse, “Tilly Goes to Church” Broadstreet Blog, June 2021:


Robinson, James A., Leander Heldring, and Sebastian Vollmer. "The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries." (2021), unpublished paper.


September 24: Economic Change the Rise of the State


Hendrick Spruyt, “The Economic Renaissance of the Late Middle Ages” The Sovereign State

and its Competitors, (1994), p. 61-76


Jedwab, Remi, Noel Johnson, and Mark Koyama. "The economic impact of the Black Death." (2020), Unpublished Paper


Cantoni, Davide, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman. "Religious competition and reallocation: The political economy of secularization in the protestant reformation." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 133, no. 4 (2018): 2037-2096.


September 29: Military Conflict and the Rise of the State: the Case of Prussia


John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe (3rd edition), 2010: pp. 145-161


Brian Downing, “The Military Revolution,” in The Military Revolution (1992) pp. 56-83; 


Charles Tilly, “War Making and State-Making as Organized Crime” in Theda Skocpol et al (eds) Bringing the State Back In (1985), pp. 169-191 


Brian Downing “Brandenburg-Prussia” and “Poland” in Downing, The Military Revolution pp. 84-112; pp. 140-156



October 1: The Exit from Absolutism: French and English Revolutions Compared


Brian Downing. “France” and “England” The Military Revolution, pp. 113-139; pp. 157-186. 


Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution (Doubleday, 1955), Chapters 9 and 10


Sheri Berman, Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 29-76


Take Home Exam (Midterm #1), Due to your TF by October 6, 12 noon.




October 6 and October 8: Gradual Democratization in Britain


Stephen J. Lee, Aspects of British political history, 1815-1914. Psychology Press, 1994 (“The 1832 Reform Act” and “Parliamentary Reform: 1867 and beyond” pp. 53-63; 136-146;


Aidt, Toke S., and Raphaël Franck. "What motivates an oligarchic elite to democratize? evidence from the roll call vote on the great reform act of 1832." The Journal of Economic History 79.3 (2019): 773-825.


Ahmed, Amel. Democracy and the politics of electoral system choice: engineering electoral dominance. Cambridge University Press, 2013, Chapter 5 (pp. 117-138)


North, Douglass C., and Barry R. Weingast. "Constitutions and commitment: the evolution of institutions governing public choice in seventeenth-century England." The journal of economic history 49.4 (1989): 803-832



October 13 and  October 15: Unsettled Democratization: 1848 Revolutions, France, and Imperial Germany


John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, chapter 16 (“The Revolutions of 1848”)


Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times (5th edition), pp. 123-144 (Chapters 11 and 12)


Daniel Ziblatt, “Stalled Democratization in Germany Before 1914”  Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (2017), pp. 215-258


Sheri Berman, “Modernization in Historical Perspective: The Case of Imperial Germany,”

World Politics, 53, 3, April 2001.


Rogowski, Ronald. "Political cleavages and changing exposure to trade." The American Political Science Review (1987): 1121-1137. [read only pp. 1121-1129]



October 20 and 22: The Rise and Fall of the Weimar Republic


Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, Chapter 2 and Chapter 4


Daniel Ziblatt, Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, Chapters 8 and 9 (pp. 259-333).


Barry Eichengreen “Unemployment and Reaction” The Populist Temptation, Chapter 6.



October 27: Democratic Breakdown in France, Italy (and lessons from Belgium)


Ian Kershaw “Fascism Victorious” in To Hell and Back (2016), pp 134-142 [Italy case study]


Capoccia, Giovanni. Defending democracy: Reactions to extremism in interwar Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, pp. 3-26; 108-137 [Belgium case study]


William Shirer, The Fall of the French Third Republic (1969, Simon and Schuster): pp. 199-204; pp. 210-230.


October 29: In-Class Midterm (Midterm #2)






November 3: Transformed Domestic Setting: Political Parties and Political Institutions



Charles Maier, “The Two Postwar Eras and the Conditions for Stability in Twentieth-Century Western Europe” American Historical Review (1981): 327-352.


Müller, Jan-Werner. Contesting democracy. Yale University Press, 2011.pp. 125-157


Berman, Sheri. The primacy of politics: Social democracy and the making of Europe's twentieth century. Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 177-199



November 5:  Transformed International Setting: Cold War and the European Union


John Pinder and Simon Usherwood, The European Union: A Very Short Introduction (2013), Chapters 1-4.


“The Mundell-Fleming Trilemma: Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” The Economist, August 27, 2016


November 10: European Models of Capitalism


Barry Eichengreen, “The Age of Moderation” The Populist Temptation (Oxford University Press, 2018), Chapter 7 


Gosta Esping Andersen Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, pp. 26-29


Manow, Philip. "Electoral rules, class coalitions and welfare state regimes, or how to explain Esping-Andersen with Stein Rokkan." Socio-Economic Review 7, no. 1 (2009): 101-121.

November 12: European Models under siege (and political consequences)


Barry Eichengreen, “Things Fall Apart” The Populist Temptation, Oxford University Press, 2018)

Sophie Meunier, R. Daniel Keleman and Erik Jones “Failing Forward? The Euro Crisis and the Incomplete Nature of European Integration” Comparative Political Studies 49 (7) 2015: 

Broz, J. Lawrence, Jeffry Frieden, and Stephen Weymouth. "Populism in place: the economic geography of the globalization backlash." International Organization 75, no. 2 (2021): 464-494.

November  17 and November 19: The Rise of Populism: Other explanations and evidence


Inglehart, Ronald, and Pippa Norris. "Trump and the populist authoritarian parties: the silent revolution in reverse." Perspectives on Politics 15, no. 2 (2017): 443-454.


Piketty, Thomas. "Brahmin left vs merchant right: rising inequality and the changing structure of political conflict." WID. world Working Paper 7 (2018).


Abou‐Chadi, Tarik, and Simon Hix. "Brahmin Left versus Merchant Right? Education, class, multiparty competition, and redistribution in Western Europe." The British Journal of Sociology 72, no. 1 (2021): 79-92.


Bischof, Daniel and Thomas Kurer. Lost in Transition – Where Are All the Social Democrats Today? Unpublished Paper, 2021


Ziblatt, Daniel, Hanno Hilbig, and Daniel Bischof. "Wealth of Tongues: Why Peripheral Regions Vote for the Radical Right in Germany." (Unpublished Paper, 2021).



December 1 : New Challenges to Democracy in Europe


Steffan Lindberg, “Nature of Democratic Backsliding in Europe” (2018) Carn


Kelemen, R. Daniel. "The European Union's authoritarian equilibrium." Journal of European Public Policy 27, no. 3 (2020): 481-499.


Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, How Democracies Die (2018), pp. 72-96


Zach Beauchaump, “It Happened There: How democracy Died in Hungary” Vox (2018)




Course Summary:

Date Details Due