Syllabus: War and Society: A New Interdisciplinary Degree (J. France)

War and Society:

A New Interdisciplinary Degree for Students of the University of Wales Swansea

War is one of the most spectacular of historic events. It is a subject of great fascination because it is seen as bringing about violent change in a highly dramatic way. It also inflicts terrible suffering and degradation and yet evokes great bravery. We want to understand how and why men and women are able to endure such horrors and also to inflict them on others.

Yet understanding is not easily achieved. There has been much discussion recently about the ‘Western way of War’ which, it has been alleged, was first developed half a millennium before Christ. But is there any such thing as a ‘Western way of War’ which is peculiar to a particular culture, or are there simply many ways of waging war which cultures use and change as they think appropriate? Simple explanations clearly are insufficient. We live in a society infatuated with technology and it is conventional to believe that technological superiority wins wars. But in what sense was the war in Iraq ‘won’ when the ‘victors’ are unable to impose their preferred political solution on that country? How far is the waging of war now influenced by the way it is reported?

It is our perception that war cannot be approached and understood through the medium of a single discipline because a whole range of disciplines has something to offer the student. It is for this reason that we have developed a new interdisciplinary degree, ‘War and Society’. There is an emphasis on European warfare, but this is never Eurocentric in the sense that everything must be related to and measured by European development. We seek to look at war across a wide span of time – from the Greeks to the Gulf War. But various disciplines contribute to this – American Studies, Development Studies, Classical and Egyptian Studies, History, Literatures, Media Studies, Politics and International Relations and Sociology, Anthropology, amongst others.

While students are given an all-round grounding in the understanding of war, the structure of the course leaves them free to concentrate and to develop their own approaches. In particular, it offers the opportunity to undertake a dissertation of the student’s own choosing under the supervision of a specialist in an area the student finds to be of particular interest.

Some Books of Particular Interest

  • J.Black, European Warfare 1453-1815 (Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1999).
  • V.D.Hanson, The Western Way of War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
  • J.Keegan, The Face of Battle (London: Pimlico, 1995)

If You Want to Know More Contact:

Professor John France, Department of History, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Tel: 01792-513211                        Email:

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