Berlin and the Berlin Wall: short course

Online self-guided short course for lifelong learners

Published: 30th March 2023

Berlin and the Berlin Wall: self-guided short course


The Berlin Wall became a symbol of a time in history, and a physical defining point in an otherwise covert series of battles. To study and explore the Berlin Wall is to explore how the Cold War manifested itself in Central Europe and the impact it had on one nation in particular. In this self-guided course participants are invited to learn about the wider context of the Cold War as experienced in Europe and specifically to understand how the wall and events in Germany influenced European politics and international relations. How the German people continued to be a focal point of history throughout the twentieth century is another theme alongside how an historic city survived to be once more the capital of a nation. 

This course brings together films, podcasts, articles, and specially filmed webinars to take you through the history of the Berlin Wall. There is a mixture of broad-brush pieces and the interrogation of specific questions and issues. The recorded sessions offer stimulation to anyone now approaching the subject and will help anyone new to the course to see how others have explored the topic and wrestled with the questions of why Berlin, how important was the Wall as a physical structure and what impact did it have for those across Europe? The legacy of the wall in a new and invigorated Germany for Germans and the future of the EU are also touched upon.  

The course was originally run live as a live event in the months following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 and the contemporary messages this had for Europe are also discussed in some of the recorded sessions, providing an insight as to how the study of history continues to have new meaning for each generation. 

How is the course structured? 

This self-guided short course is 100% online. The resources are structured but can be dipped into at any time, so you can work through them at your own pace and convenience. Through this unit you can access:

  • A recorded introductory lecture setting out the themes, the resources and concepts for the course 
  • Access to and a guide for using the HA’s curated resource unit 
  • A recorded workshop and discussion session
  • Two closing recorded workshops: one bringing the course to a close through discussion, and one including a guest lecturer who specialises in the topic 

These materials were originally compiled and produced as part of our live short course on Berlin and the Berlin Wall which took place between June and October 2022. 

Film series: Power and authority in Germany, 1871-1991

For wider context, you can also view our new series of films bringing together some of the UK’s leading historians on modern Germany to address the different ways its actions, history and impact can be explored, evaluated and interpreted. View the film series here (Historian members) or through the Student Zone here (Corporate secondary members).

This resource is FREE for Historian HA Members.

HA Members can sign in to access this content or you can Join the HA if you are not already a member.

Filmed webinars

  • Session 1: introduction
  • Session 2: workshop and discussion session
  • Session 3: Berlin, the wall and the geo-political issues
  • Session 4: The Berlin Wall: Asking questions about impact
  • Session 5: Berlin Wall: Impact and Legacies
  • Session 6: Berlin: The Story of a City

Background reading/sources

  • Article: Blood and Iron – the violent birth of modern Germany
  • Article: Berlin
  • Article: The changing shapes of Europe’s twentieth century
  • Podcast: Ideology and the Cold War – Marxism and Capitalism
  • Article: Nazism and Stalinism – a suitable case for comparison?
  • Article: The 'Era of the Dictators' Reconsidered
  • Podcast: Britain and the Cold War
  • Articles and film: Britain and the Berlin Airlift 1948-49

Specific course content

  • Berlin Wall timeline
  • The Berlin Wall in maps and images
  • Cold War timeline 1943-1995
  • Cold War fact sheet
  • Article: When was the post-war?
  • Essay: To what extent was the failure of denazification in Germany 1945-48 a result of the apathy of the allies?
  • Podcast: Cold War Germany
  • Podcast: An Introduction to the German Democratic Republic
  • Podcast: Life in East Germany and the collapse of the GDR
  • Podcast: The Impact and Significance of the Great Patriotic War
  • Article: Opposition and Resistance in the GDR
  • Podcast: The USSR and Eastern Europe
  • Podcast: Why did the Cold War Come to an End in the 1980s?
  • Article: What is interesting about the Cold War?
  • Article: The End of the Cold War
  • Article: Using photographic evidence to explore the impact of the Berlin Wall

Wider sources

  • Podcast: The Significance of Atomic and Nuclear Weapons
  • Article: Czech uranium and Stalin's bomb
  • Article: What difference has the opening (and closing) of archives after 1991 made to the historiography of the Cold War?
  • Exploring and Teaching Twentieth-Century History