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PAIR3045 Strategy and War

Module Overview

The development of Strategy and its implementation, for good or ill, has had enormous impact on shaping the world. It has a fascinating history, traceable from the Hebrew Bible and ancient Greece to the widespread overuse of the word today to cover actions and events that would not have been recognisable years ago. In this module we will explore Strategy in the context of how it has helped to shape security in terms of the application of violence and its avoidance. We will start with Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, moving quickly to the 18th century when the term ‘strategy’ started to gain widespread use and embrace both the military and political dimensions. Each week we will focus on particular theorists and practitioners, considering the development of political and military thinking and its relationship to major conflicts and security, ranging primarily from the Napoleonic wars to the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will also look at the role of decision making in the application of strategy.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- To provide an understanding of the history and development of Strategy and conflict - To introduce you to the ideas and influences of some key strategic thinkers - To examine the relationship between strategy and the outcomes of specific conflicts - To explore the relationship between the political and military spheres in the theory and practice of Strategy

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the development of Strategy and conflict
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the relationship between strategy and the outcomes of specific conflicts
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the ideas and influences of some key strategic thinkers
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of major developments in security and warfare from the 18th century to today
  • Participate fully and constructively in group discussion, arguing your case by drawing on your reading, knowledge and understanding
  • Analyse critically a variety of textual and visual sources
  • Structure your ideas and research findings into well-ordered presentations and essays
  • Think strategically
  • Apply your presentation skills


In addition to lectures and seminars providing introductory sessions, topics to be covered will typically include: - The origins of Strategy (Sun Tzu and Machiavelli) - The importance of the 18th century in the development of Strategy (the French Revolution) - Jomini, Clausewitz and Napoleon (1780s-1840s) - WW1 – the Schlieffen Plan and Total War - The Rise and Fall of Nuclear Strategy (Schelling, Khan) - Counterinsurgency – the wars of Vietnam - Asymmetry and the terrorist threat - Iraq and Afghanistan – failures of strategy? - The role of decision making in the application of strategy

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Weekly 2 hour lecture/seminar - Detailed analysis and discussion of sources - Short presentations by students - Group discussions including feedback from tutor Lectures will provide you with a general overview and understanding of chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Presentations and subsequent group discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about topics, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument. Learning activities include: - preparatory reading, individual research and study prior to each class - preparing and delivering short presentations relating to specific aspects of the module - studying primary sources, including textual, visual and material evidence - participation in group and class discussion In this module, learning and teaching activities focus on helping you to explore and investigate the ideas and themes outlined above. Throughout the module you will also engage in directed and self-directed study, for example through pre-seminar reading and through library research. The presentations (by you and your fellow students) and your reading will provide you with a broad overview of the secondary literature, using the bibliography provided at the start of the module. The discussion generated by these presentations will provide you with the opportunity to explore the relevant major historical debates on a weekly basis. In addition, you will study in depth a range of primary written and visual sources. These sessions will allow you to prepare for the assessment exercises. Feedback on your progress and development will be given via seminars and group discussions. Responses from tutor and your fellow students to your presentation will also give you formative feedback.

Follow-up work45
Preparation for scheduled sessions45
Completion of assessment task20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Gray, Colin S. (2010). The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice. 

Clausewitz, Carl von. (1832). On War. 

Gat, Azar. (1982). The Origins of Military Thought. 

Ludendorff, General.. The Nation at War, trans. A.S. Rappoport. 

Luttwak, Edward N. (1987). Strategy: The Logic of war and Peace.. 

Clark, General Wesley K. (2001). Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Combat. ,Oxford .

George Kennan (1946-47). The Sources of Soviet Conduct. Foreign Affairs. ,25 , pp. 566-82.

John Stone (2011). The Politics and Techniques of War. 

Stone, John. (2011). Military Strategy: The Politics and Techniques of War. 

Heuser, Beatrice. (2002). Reading Clausewitz. 

Ritter, Gerhard. (1958). The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth, trans. Andrew and Eva Wilson.. 

Bell, David A. (2007). The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Modern Warfare. 

Betts, Richard K. (2000). Is Strategy an Illusion. International Security. ,25 .

Freedman, Lawrence (1989). The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. 

Kaplan, Fred. (1983). The Wizards of Armageddon. 

Schelling, Thomas. C. (1966). The Strategy of Conflict. 

Smith, General Sir Rupert. (2005). The Utility of Force. 

Beatrice Heuser (2010). The Evolution of Strategy. 

Joint Vision 2020. 

The Bombing War. 

Nagl, John A. (2002). Lessons from Malaysia and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife.. 

The Invention of Peace. 

Machiavelli, Niccolo (1961). The Prince. trans. George Bull. 


Lawrence Freedman (2013). Strategy, A History. 

Howard, Michael. (1961). The Franco-Prussian War. 

Overy, Richard. (1998). Russia’s War. 

Douhet, Giulio. (1943). Command of the Air, trans. Dino Ferrari.. 

Earle, Edward Meade, ed. (1943). Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler. 

Baylis, Wirtz, Grey, eds (2013). Strategy in the Contemporary World. 

Brodie, Bernard. (1946). The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order. 



Small Group Discussion


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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