Critical Approaches to War, State and Society (HISM020)

StaffDr Matthias Reiss - Convenor
Dr Emily Bridger - Lecturer
Professor Martin Thomas - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the main themes and approaches in the study of war, state and society. They will be introduced to major themes in the study of war, state and society, assessing the role of the international system and political economy as well as regional factors and internal societal pressures in shaping societal responses to domestic and foreign conflict. Students will explore the role of wars, civil wars, revolutions, insurgencies and violence in promoting or inhibiting social and political change, as well as considering the roles of civilians, groups and parties. By introducing students to the major debates in these areas alongside critical concepts, discourse and debates, the module will prepare students for further study in this area or dissertation research.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and evaluate the main themes and approaches in the study of war, state and society.
  • 2. Possess detailed knowledge of the key historiographical and theoretical debates informing the study of war, state and society.
  • 3. Assess critically the role of primary sources in informing the study of war, state and society.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates, and recognise the differences between different approaches and source types.
  • 6. Develop practical research skills in the primary and secondary evidence.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical research, study and thought, including developing the ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 8. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way.
  • 9. Apply key bibliographical skills to independent study.

Syllabus plan

Over the course of a term, potential seminar topics include (these will vary depending on  staff expertise and student choice): morale, discipline and combat motivation; the civilianisation of warfare; occupied societies; war economies; contested decolonisation and insurgency; genocide and mass violence; routine violence (including state, political, gendered and communal (religious) violence); political violence (including nationalism/anti-imperialism, guerrilla insurgency and civil war); war and revolution and the legacy of war (including the relationships between war, revolution, state-building and social change, and the relationships between conflict and identity, culture and gender); film and war; and memory and the aftermath of war.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study278Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan2-sides A4 maximum1-9Verbal and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Book Review332,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback
Essay674,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book ReviewBook Review1-9Referral/deferral period.
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period.

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 1,000 book review and 4,000 word essay as in the original assessment.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Bernard Waites, A Class Society at War: England 1914-1918 (Berg, 1987)

Bob Moore and Barbara Hately-Broad (eds.), Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming and Memory in World War II (Oxford, 2005)

Martin Thomas et al, Crises of Empire: Decolonization and Europe’s Imperial States (London, 2008)

R. G. Moeller, War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley, 2003)

J. Winter, Remembering War: The Great War between Memory and History in the 20th Century (Yale, 2006)

R. Overy, Why the Allies Won (London, 1997)

Stathis Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil Wars (Cambridge, 2007)

D. Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970 (Cambridge, 2005)

G.C. Peden, Arms, Economics and British Strategy: From Dreadnaughts to Hydrogen Bombs (Cambridge, 2006)

M. Harrison, Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War (Cambridge, 2004).

Christian Gerlach, Extremely violent societies mass violence in the twentieth-century world (Cambridge, 2010)

Christian Gerlach, The Extermination of the European Jews (Cambridge, 2015)

Vejas Liulevicius,  War Land on the Eastern Front: National Identity and German Occupation in World War I (Cambridge, 2000)

Karel Berkhoff, Harvest of despair : life and death in Ukraine under Nazi rule (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front, 1941-45: German Troops and the Barbarization of Warfare (London, 1985)

Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (Cambridge, 2008)

Hein Klemann, Sergei Kudryashov, Occupied Economies (Oxford, 2013)

A. Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The making and breaking of the Nazi economy (London, 2006), 

Jonas Scherner and Eugene White (eds), Paying for Hitler's War : The Consequences of Nazi Economic Hegemony for Europe (Cambridge, 2016)

Richard Overy, The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945 (London, 2013)

Isabel Hull, Absolute destruction: military culture and the practices of war in Imperial Germany (Ithaca, 2005)

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Key words search

War, state, society, violence, conflict