Postgraduate taught 

War Studies MSc

Core and optional courses

Core and optional courses

Core Course

Theory and Reality in Western Warfare

The core course aims to cover a selection of some of the key thinkers on the practice of western warfare over a broad chronological span from the late Roman period to the twentieth century, and to assess how far and with what success such ideas were put into practice in actual warfare. 

Specifically, by the end of this core course the student should:

  1. Be knowledgeable of the some of the most important theoretical developments in western warfare, and how these different theories fared when they were put in practice
  2. Be able to understand and evaluate historical ideas on western warfare from a number of different periods, nations, and historical perspectives
  3. Be able to integrate his/her own thoughts with primary source material, secondary source material, and information gathered from instructor presentations, to create informed, interesting and persuasive presentations
  4. Be able to write essays consistent with work at the post-graduate level.

Course Structure

The core course is mandatory for all students in the first term and will be class-taught. It will meet twice per week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-5pm); each week the class will focus on one specific subject. During the first meeting of the week the leading instructor will give a presentation on a particular subject, while the second meeting will be based around student presentations on the same subject.

Topics covered in the course may include:

  • Vegetius and the  nature of medieval warfare
  • Jomini and Warfare in the American Civil War
  • Moltke and the War of German Unification
  • Small wars and Colonial warfare
  • Early Modern Warfare: The Historiographical Debate

Each student will be assessed through their performance in one essay and two oral seminar presentations and papers. Overall, the mark in the core course will compose one-third of the student's final mark for the MLitt.

Optional courses

Western Intelligence in an Age of Terror - Professor Peter Jackson

This course surveys the way western intelligence agencies (primarily those of Britain and the United States) have dealt with the key security challenges of the early twenty-first century. It will introduce students to a number of concepts central to the study of intelligence and then apply these concepts to the study of intelligence responses to international challenges since the end of the Cold War.

Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency, 1800-present - Dr Alex Marshall (please note this course may not be available in 2016-17)

This course will introduce students to the key theoretical frameworks behind the phenomena of social mobilization, organised political rebellion, and counter-insurgency from both a purely theoretical and practical perspective, making use of both primary and secondary sources. From the very broadest theoretical outline as to why rebellions and insurgencies occur, the course will then lead students right up to a consideration of present-day dilemmas currently being faced in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American Way of War: From the Revolution to the War on Terror - Dr Phillips O'Brien

This course examines changing American notions of war over time, to both educate the students about the how the power of America has developed, the role it played in many international wars, and how it has accumulated the military that it has today. The course is divided into ten sessions, each dealing with a different aspects and developments of the American military power.

  • The American Revolution: The United States as Small Power.
  • The American Civil War: Grant, Sherman and the Notion of Total War
  • 'Small Wars', Early Wars of American Imperial Power
  • The First World War: America on the Verge of World Power
  • The Second World War I, The Role American Land/Air Power in the Defeat of Germany
  • The Second World War II, Naval and Economic Warfare and the Destruction of Japan
  • American Nuclear Doctrine in the Cold War
  • Vietnam: The Politics of the use of American Power
  • The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Transformation of American Military Power: The First Gulf War and the Former Yugoslavia
  • The War on Terror and America as World Military Hegemon 

Chivalry and Warfare in Late Medieval Europe, c. 1300 to c. 1500 - Professor Matthew Strickland

This course aims to explore the nature of chivalry in aristocratic culture and in particular in relation to the conduct of warfare in theory and in practice. This module will examine key aspects of the debate surrounding the idea that, by the fifteenth century, concepts of chivalry had become ossified and anachronistic. It shall explore the role played by the 'law of arms' in later medieval chivalry, and examine the operation of conventions of ransom and the profits of war which were a key incentive in the prosecution of war. The ambiguous relationship between notions of chivalry and the impact of war on the population at large will also be examined.

Sessions will include the following topics:

  • Huizinga, Keen and the Scope of the Debate
  • The Knight Redundant? (i) The Man-at-Arms and the 'Infantry Revolution'
  • The Knight Redundant? (ii) Artillery and the Rise of Firearms
  • Laws of Siege and Rituals of Capitulation
  • Prisoners, Ransom and the Courts of Chivalry
  • Chivalry, War and the Non-Combatant
  • Captains and Condottieri: War as a Profession
  • Crusading: A Noble Anachronism?
  • The Secular Orders of Knighthood
  • Jousts of Peace, Jousts of War: The Tournament and late Medieval Chivalry

Scottish Castles in a European Context, c. 1100 to c.1750 - Professor Stephen Driscoll & Professor Matthew Strickland

Whether the great fortified crags of Edinburgh, Stirling or Dumbarton, or the numerous ruined or still inhabited tower-houses visible across the country, the castle has long formed one of the most striking features of Scotland’s landscape. This course traces the evolution of the castle from its introduction by the Franco-Norman knights serving the twelfth century kings of Scots, asking what it was that made the castle distinctive form earlier forms of defence and power centres. It continues through to the First War of Independence (1296-1328), when many of the country’s finest fortifications, constructed in a period of comparative peace during the thirteenth century, were deliberately ruined to prevent them being used as bases for English occupation, to the later Middle Ages and into the sixteenth century, when distinctive forms of fortified lordly residences developed, above all the tower house. Much recent historiography has sought to downplay the military aspects of the castle, stressing instead the primacy of residential functions and design. Equally, the importance is increasingly being recognized of studying castles not in isolation but within their wider landscapes. This course will examine these debates and apply them to the study of castles in Scotland, a land where geographical and political factors led to marked regional divergence in their forms and purposes. It will also seek to place their evolution within the wider context of the military, political and social influences from Europe, not least France, with which Scotland had long enjoyed the ‘Auld Alliance’ against England. In so doing, the course utilizes a range of historical and archaeological evidence.

The Wars of Decolonization and the Making of the Global Cold War - Dr Mathilde von Bulow

This course investigates the history of refugees and statelessness across the world since the start of the twentieth century, taking an interdisciplinary approach to understand how population displacement has related to conflict, nationalism, state formation, and the development of international institutions.