The Beatles and their World


HIST 2114H Issues in European History: The Beatles and their World

It has almost half a century since four young, working-class boys from Liverpool swept onto the international scene and captured the imagination of a generation. The Beatles’ rise to the top of the charts is significant not only because of the lasting cultural and commercial legacy of the group and its members, but also because the rise and fall of the Beatles allows us to examine the profound social and cultural transformations wrought by the cultural revolution of the sixties. This course will introduce students to the history and cultural legacy of the Beatles, including their music, films, and subsequent post-Beatles work. It will be interdisciplinary: a mixture of history, literature, biography, and musicology. In addition to weekly readings, short papers, and discussions, students will take part in individual and group research and presentations.

Contact Information:

Dr. Robert Stephens
328 Wallace Hall
Phone: 231-6770

Office Hours: by appointment

 Course Meetings:

Monday 5:30-8:15PM, 132 Hillcrest

 Course Evaluation:

1. Leading group discussion twice, 20%
2. Midterm project proposal, 5%
3. Midterm project, 15%
4. Midterm presentation, 10%
5. Final project proposal 5%
6. Final project, 15%
7. Final presentation, 10%
8. Attendance and Participation, 20%

Attendance will be taken and the grade will be based on the number of absences, each absence counting 25% of your grade. Therefore, one unexcused absence will reduce your attendance and participation to 75% automatically; two will result in a starting grade of 50%; four unexcused absences will result in an automatic Failing grade for the entire course. In class, active participation is required. That means taking part in the discussions and talking in every class. You will be given a grade based on your overall participation

Some Policy Matters:
1. Completion of all assignments is required, even if you are taking the course pass-fail.
2. Late exams will be given only with an official, documented excuse.
3. Please make sure your cell phones are turned off when you enter class.

Special Needs:

If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

Honor Code:

Virginia Tech has a stringent honor code. The honor pledge states: “I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment.” If you are not familiar with the honor code system, I strongly encourage you to do so immediately; by attending this university you tacitly agree to be governed by this set of rules. The honor code is available at the following URL:

Any infractions will be reported to the Honor System Review Board and could lead to a failing grade in the course, community service, probation, or even expulsion from the university.


The following books are required reading and are available at the bookstore:

The Beatles, The Beatles Anthology (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002). ISBN 0811836363.

June Skinner Sawyers, Read the Beatles (New York: Penguin, 2006). ISBN: 0143037323.


Music for the course is on reserve at Newman Library.

 Midterm and final projects:

This is an honors colloquium. Therefore you will be given free reign to decide on the format and content of your midterm and final projects. There are no set guidelines. You may work individually or in small groups that have shared interests.

These projects should be original and innovative. They should also highlight what you have learned about the subject outside of class. The projects will be graded holistically and in comparison to the work of the other students. Credit will be given for originality, commitment and time investment, and the quality of the final product. I suggest you play to your strengths, and feel free to consult me about your ideas ahead of the proposal submission.

The proposal should be approximately 500-words and include a discussion of the proposed format, content, and intellectual rationale for the project. You should hand in a hard copy to the instructor on the due date.

The project you turn in will be determined in consultation with me. You should hand in a hard copy on the due date. If the format of your project is not conducive to posting, you should consult with me ahead of time.

During two class conferences, you will present your project to the class.

These projects should be intellectually stimulating and fun. Don’t choose a project that will fail to engage you as you prepare. Feel free to let your imagination roam.

Leading class discussion:

This colloquium is organized around group discussion. Each week you will have three hours to discuss the things you have read and heard during the previous week. Everyone must actively participate, and your course participation grade will be based in large part on your in-class participation.

Each week two to three members of the class will be responsible for leading class discussion on the readings and music. We will pass around a sign-up sheet during the first week of class.

Discussion leaders must generate a list of at least ten questions that will guide discussion for the week. These must be posted to Scholar on Sunday so that class members will have two days to prepare for the discussion. Each group should turn in a hard copy of the discussion questions at the beginning of the class period.


Week 1, Aug. 25:

WiththebeatlescoverWeek 2, Sept. 1: Early Beatles
1. Anthology, pp. 6-78
2. Read the Beatles, xv-38

Week 3, Sept. 8: 1963
1. Anthology, pp. 79-110
2. Read the Beatles, pp. 39-47
Listening: Please Please Me and With the Beatles
Writing: midterm project proposal.

Week 4, Sept. 15: 1964
1. Anthology, pp. 111-161.
2. Reading the Beatles, 48-76.
Listening: A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale.

album-The-Beatles-RevolverWeek 5, Sept. 22: 1965-1966
1. Anthology, 163-237.
2. Reading the Beatles, 77-91.
Listening: Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver.

Week 6, Sept. 29: Midterm presentations 1

Week 7, Oct. 6: Midterm presentations 2

Week 8, Oct. 13: 1967
1. Anthology, 238-278.
2. Reading the Beatles, 92-135.
Listening: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.

Beatles_-_Abbey_RoadWeek 9, Oct. 20: 1968
1. Anthology, 279-312.
2. Reading the Beatles, 142-157.
Listening: The White Album
Writing: proposal for final project.

Week 10, Oct. 27: 1969-1970
1. Anthology, 313-357.
2. Reading the Beatles, 157-166.
Listening: Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let it Be.

Week 11, Nov. 3: Lennon
1. The Rolling Stone Interview
Part I:
Part II:
Listening: Working Class Hero

Band on the runWeek 12, Nov. 10: Research and Writing Day

Week 13, Nov. 17: McCartney, Harrison, and Starr
1. Reading the Beatles, 237-336.
Listening: McCartney, All the Best!; Harrison, All things must pass; Starr, Photograph

Week 14, November 24: Final presentations 1

Week 15, December 8: Final presentations 2


war is over




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