Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Thoughts of War: Strategic Theory & Thinkers (S)
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 11 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3000 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module students will:

  • have been introduced to a range of texts about war and the strategic employment of military power over a broad chronological period
  • have gained appropriate familiarity with terms utilized in strategic discourse about the option of threatening use of force, and the use of force in war
  • be able to demonstrate detailed knowledge of the more significant claims made by recognized theorists for the strengths and limitations of types of strategy and types of military instruments (land, sea, air, deterrence, guerrilla operations)
  • be able to account for the influence of technological changes in the favour/disfavour with which the strategic theorists studied have held specific instruments of strategy and approaches to waging war

Brief description

The module examines the evolution of strategic thought through study of a selection from the canon of strategic literature, from Sun Tzu and Clausewitz to the era of nuclear weapons, wars of national liberation and low-intensity conflicts.


This is the core module in the MscEcon in Strategic Studies. It aims to give students an overview of the development of strategic thought from the classic theorists of former times to the present day; and to prepare students to situate contemporary issues surrounding the threat of, and actual use of, force in statecraft and international relations. Each of the seminars is self-standing, addressing approaches to the use of force in the context of historical time and place for the writer(s); taken together, they lead students to identify and reflect on common threads and themes that emerge from historical writings on strategy and retain currency into the modern and contemporary eras.


The module begins with the study of Sun Tzu'r The Art of War (c. 400 BC), moves on to Carl von Clausewitz'r On War (1832) and proceeds to 20th C. works including B. H. Liddell Hart'r Strategy: The Indirect Approach, Bernard Brodie'r Strategy in the Missile Age, and Mao Tse-Tung'r On Guerrilla War. It draws out common threads and themes from each case-study, so that students will, by its end, have considered, through the set-texts, such key dimensions of strategy and warfare as: the ends-means relationship (the policy-strategy match); patterns for the civil-military interface; the specificities and principles of ground warfare (including attrition vs. manoeuvre, unity of command, concentration of force); the leverage offered by naval power; the capabilities of air power; strategy and deterrence in the nuclear age; the principles and conduct of guerrilla/LIC insurgent and counter-insurgent force.

Transferable skills

Throughout the module students will practice and enhance their reading, comprehension and thinking skills, as well as self-management skills. In seminars, students will enhance listening, explaining and debating skills, as well as oral presentational skills. Essay writing will encourage students to practice independent research skills including data retrieval, assembly and organization, writing, IT and time management. The review-article tests application of critical analysis to the nature, terms and cogency of contributions to a specific debate about a strategic text.

15 ECTS Credits


This module is at CQFW Level 7