The Fall of Eagles: Collapse of the Old Order 1901-1923

The Russian, German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires represented the last vestiges of feudalism at the beginning of the 20th century. The emperors refused to acknowledge reform movements and repressed demands for political and social rights and freedoms. WWI changed the landscape of Europe and the Middle East and the old empires were swept away by the end of the Peace Conferences in 1923.The disintegration of the Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Ottoman and Romanov empires features evidence of decadence, entrenched wealth and privilege, incompetence in government and rampant nationalism. The emergence of new republics post 1918 failed to stabilise Europe and the Middle East.

This class will be delivered face-to-face at WEA Sydney. Enrolling students need to ensure they have read the current COVID-19 Safety Guidance that WEA Sydney has put in place before enrolling.


  • Cyrus Sulzberger, Collapse of the Old Order, The Death of the Great European Dynasties, Crown, 1981
  • John van der Kiste, The End of the German Monarchy, the Decline and Fall of the Hohenzollerns, Fonthill, 2017
  • Michael Reynolds, Shattering Empires, The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908-1918, CUP 2011


  • 1901 German, Austro Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires at the beginning of 20th century, inherent weaknesses in government.
  • Role of each of the emperors in the government of each empire 1901-1914 in the years before the outbreak of WWI.
  • Rampant nationalism and the clash of empires before, during and immediately after WWI.
  • Factors contributing to the collapse of each empire and the emergence of new republics during the Peace Conferences 1919-1923.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain a sound understanding of the reasons for the collapse of the old order before, during and after WWI.
  2. Evaluate the contribution of each emperor and ruling elite to the demise of the empires and collapse of the old orders.
  3. Explain why WWI was so important in the collapse of the old order.
  4. Appreciate the long term legacies of the collapse of the old order in both Europe and the Middle East throughout the 20th century.

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