Course descriptions from the IB History Guide

Prescribed subject 3: The move to global war (Paper 1)

This prescribed subject focuses on military expansion from 1931 to 1941. Two case studies are prescribed, from different regions of the world, and both of these case studies must be studied. The first case study explores Japanese expansionism from 1931 to 1941, and the second case study explores German and Italian expansionism from 1933 to 1940. The focus of this prescribed subject is on the causes of expansion, key events, and international responses to that expansion. Discussion of domestic and ideological issues should therefore be considered in terms of the extent to which they contributed to this expansion, for example, economic issues, such as the long-term impact of the Great Depression, should be assessed in terms of their role in shaping more aggressive foreign policy.


Case studies

Material for detailed study

Case study 1: Japanese expansion in East Asia (1931–1941)

Causes of expansion • The impact of Japanese nationalism and militarism on foreign policy • Japanese domestic issues: political and economic issues, and their impact on foreign relations • Political instability in China   Events • Japanese invasion of Manchuria and northern China (1931) • Sino-Japanese War (1937–1941) • The Three Power/Tripartite Pact; the outbreak of war; Pearl Harbor (1941)   Responses • League of Nations and the Lytton report • Political developments within China—the Second United Front • International response, including US initiatives and increasing tensions between the US and Japan

Case study 2: German and Italian expansion (1933–1940)

Causes of expansion • Impact of fascism and Nazism on the foreign policies of Italy and Germany • Impact of domestic economic issues on the foreign policies of Italy and Germany • Changing diplomatic alignments in Europe; the end of collective security; appeasement   Events • German challenges to the post-war settlements (1933–1938) • Italian expansion: Abyssinia (1935–1936); Albania; entry into the Second World War • German expansion (1938–1939); Pact of Steel, Nazi–Soviet Pact and the outbreak of war   Responses • International response to German aggression (1933–1938) • International response to Italian aggression (1935–1936) • International response to German and Italian aggression (1940)


World history topic 10: Authoritarian states (20th century) (Paper 2)

This topic focuses on exploring the conditions that facilitated the rise of authoritarian states in the 20th century, as well as the methods used by parties and leaders to take and maintain power. The topic explores the emergence, consolidation and maintenance of power, including the impact of the leaders’ policies, both domestic and foreign, upon the maintenance of power. Examination questions for this topic will expect students to make reference to specific authoritarian states in their responses, and some examination questions will require discussion of states from more than one region of the world. In order for students to be able to make meaningful comparisons across all aspects of the prescribed content, it is recommended that a minimum of three authoritarian states should be studied.



Prescribed content

Emergence of authoritarian states

• Conditions in which authoritarian states emerged: economic factors; social division; impact of war; weakness of political system • Methods used to establish authoritarian states: persuasion and coercion; the role of leaders; ideology; the use of force; propaganda

Consolidation and maintenance of power

• Use of legal methods; use of force; charismatic leadership; dissemination of propaganda • Nature, extent and treatment of opposition • The impact of the success and/or failure of foreign policy on the maintenance of power

Aims and results of policies

• Aims and impact of domestic economic, political, cultural and social policies • The impact of policies on women and minorities • Authoritarian control and the extent to which it was achieved


World history topic 11: Causes and effects of 20th century wars (Paper 2)

This topic focuses on the causes, practice and effects of war in the 20th century. The topic explores the causes of wars, as well as the way in which warfare was conducted, including types of war, the use of technology, and the impact these factors had upon the outcome. Examination questions for this topic will require students to make reference to specific 20th-century wars in their responses, and some examination questions will require discussion of wars from more than one region of the world. Please note that the suggested examples for this topic include “cross-regional” wars such as the First and Second World Wars. In examination questions that ask students to discuss examples of wars from different regions, students may use these wars in a regional context (for example, the Second World War in the Pacific) but may not then use the same war in a different region (for example, the Second World War in Europe) in the same response.



Prescribed content

Causes of war

• Economic, ideological, political, territorial and other causes • Short- and long-term causes

Practices of war and their impact on the outcome

• Types of war: civil wars; wars between states; guerrilla wars • Technological developments; theatres of war—air, land and sea • The extent of the mobilization of human and economic resources • The influence and/or involvement of foreign powers

Effects of war

• The successes and failures of peacemaking • Territorial changes • Political repercussions • Economic, social and demographic impact; changes in the role and status of women


HL Option 2: History of the Americas


Three sections have been selected for study. Only people and events named in the guide will be named in examination questions.


12: The Great Depression and the Americas (mid 1920s–1939)

This section focuses on the causes and nature of the Great Depression as well as the different solutions adopted by governments in the region, and the impact on these societies. The Great Depression produced the most serious economic collapse in the history of the Americas. It affected every country in the region and brought about the need to rethink economic and political systems. The alternatives that were offered, and the adaptations that took place, marked a watershed in political and economic development in many countries in the region. With respect to the last three bullets, a case-study approach should be adopted, using one country from the region as an example. The chosen country should be identified in the introduction to the examination answers.


• The Great Depression: political and economic causes in the Americas

• Nature and efficacy of solutions in the United States: Hoover; Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal

• Critics of the New Deal; impact of the New Deal on US political and economic systems

• Nature and efficacy of solutions in Canada: Mackenzie King and RB Bennett

• Impact of the Great Depression on Latin America; political instability and challenges to democracy; economic and social challenges

• Latin American responses to the Great Depression: import substitution industrialization (ISI); social and economic policies; popular mobilization and repression

• Impact of the Great Depression on society: specifically the impact on women and minorities; impact of the Great Depression on the arts and culture

13: The Second World War and the Americas (1933–1945)

As the world order deteriorated in the late 1930s, resulting in the outbreak of war in Europe and Asia, the countries of the region reacted in different ways to the challenges presented. This section focuses on the changing policies of the countries in the region as a result of growing political and diplomatic tensions prior to, and during, the Second World War. It also examines the impact of the war upon the Americas.


• Hemispheric reactions to the events in Europe and Asia: inter-American diplomacy; cooperation and neutrality; Franklin D Roosevelt’s Good Neighbour policy—its application and effects

• Involvement and participation of any two countries of the Americas in the Second World War

• Social impact of the Second World War; impact on women and minorities; conscription

• Treatment of Japanese Americans, Japanese Latin Americans and Japanese Canadians

• Reasons for, and significance of, US use of atomic weapons against Japan

• Economic and diplomatic effects of the Second World War in any two countries of the Americas


16: The Cold War and the Americas (1945–1981)

This section focuses on the development and impact of the Cold War on the region. Most of the second half of the 20th century was dominated by the global conflict of the Cold War. Within the Americas, some countries were closely allied to the United States and some took sides reluctantly. Many remained neutral or sought to avoid involvement in Cold War struggles. A few, influenced by the Cuban Revolution, instituted socialist governments. No nation, however, escaped the pressures of the Cold War, which had a significant impact on the domestic and foreign policies of the countries of the region.


• Truman: containment and its implications for the Americas; the rise of McCarthyism and its effects on domestic and foreign policies of the United States; social and cultural impact of the Cold War

• Korean War, the United States and the Americas: reasons for participation; military developments; diplomatic and political outcomes

• Eisenhower and Dulles: New Look and its application; characteristics and reasons for the policy;

repercussions for the region

• United States’ involvement in Vietnam: the reasons for, and nature of, the involvement at different stages; domestic effects and the end of the war; Canadian non-support of the war; Latin American protest against the war

• United States’ foreign policies from Kennedy to Carter: the characteristics of, and reasons for, policies; implications for the region: Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress; Nixon’s covert operations and Chile; Carter’s quest for human rights and the Panama Canal Treaty (1977)

• Cold War in either Canada or one Latin American country: reasons for foreign and domestic policies and their implementation


See History guide 

First examinations 2017

Published January 2015

Published by International Baccalaureate Organization

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Geneva, Switzerland

Represented by IB Publishing Ltd, Churchillplein 6, The Hague, 2517JW The Netherlands

© International Baccalaureate Organization 2015

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