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War And Society (Module)

Module description

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.


War and Society is an optional module in War Studies whose purpose is to provide students with an understanding of key issues in philosophical, historical and sociological approaches to the study of war and the military establishment in their social context and come to a clearer understanding of the relationship between armed forces and the societies they protect and how this may be affected by various political and historical factors. This is an approach to war studies that was pioneered by Sir Michael Howard in such works as War in European History (Oxford UP1976) and War and the Liberal Conscience Oxford UP 1978).

The aim of the philosophical aspects of the module is to explore the challenges to moral thinking about war, particularly those posed by realism and moral scepticism; and to determine how ethical reasoning can help in assessing the morality of war, including the contribution of just war thinking and the role played by the virtues in military life. Just war thinking, as developed, is then applied to address contemporary security challenges.

The aim of the sociological aspect of the module is to describe and explain the main changes in the relationships between warfare, armed forces and society that have occurred since the 'military revolution' in Western Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It focuses on the links between military organisation and the rise of the modern nation state.

Throughout, the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches to the subject is emphasised, not least the relationship between philosophical, historical and sociological perspectives. This is reflected in the integration of these approaches in the analysis of various topics including the debates on key issues in War and Society that occur at regular intervals in the module.


The aim of the more philosophical topics in the module is to provide students with an understanding of:

  • The key challenges to moral thinking about war and how these can be met by the development of a robust framework for the ethical evaluation of war;
  • An appreciation of the role of just war thinking in the critical examination of war and of the importance of the virtues in military life; 
  • Through selected case studies, how to analyse and evaluate critically the morality of past, present and prospective military conflicts. 
  • The more sociological and historical topics in the module are designed to provide students with a working knowledge of the following themes: 
  • The 'military revolution' and the formation of the military profession;
  • The links between the military profession and the development of the modern nation state;
  • An introduction to issues in civil-military relations and the political role of the military;
  • The impact of the democratic and industrial revolutions on the relations between armed forces and society.
  • The changing character of war and its implications for how we think about war and society in the twenty-first century.
  • While the lectures are focused initially on Western Europe, evidence is also drawn from non-European societies. 

Staff information

Dr Simon Anglim*

Teaching pattern

Typically, 1 credit equates to 10 hours of work. For a Full Year 30-credit module, this will equate to 40 hours of teaching time (2 hours per week) with 260 hours of self study.

Module assessment - more information

Exam only*

Key information

Module code 5SSW2002

Credit level 5

Assessment written examination/s

Credit value 30

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module Yes