What is war? Why do wars happen? Is there such a thing as a 'just' war? Is it immoral to kill civilians in war? How can wars be prevented? What are the laws of war? Who is a combatant? Who is not a combatant? How has warfare changed over history? Is there an alternative to war?
War loomed large over much of the 20th century and now, in 2010, it dominates the lives of millions throughout the world. A century ago only 10-15% of those who died in war were civilians. In World War II more than 50% of those who died were civilians, and by the end of the 20th century the proportion had risen to 75%. Yet the general rule of war is that only those people fighting are legitimate targets of attack and the Geneva Convention states that civilians are not to be subject to attack. Some philosophers, however, say that there are no non-combatants in war, and that every citizen of an enemy state is a legitimate target. What are the morals and ethics of war? What can be learnt from studying war in this manner?
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the difficulties of peacemaking highlight the need for an understanding of the nature and political functions of war and armed conflict, and of the role of the armed forces in maintaining peace and security. Throughout history, warfare has been a violent catalyst for political, economic, social, cultural and technological change, and it is these changes that are often the focus of War Studies courses.
Example areas of study
Single, joint and combined honours War Studies courses are available and these differ in their emphases. War studies also feature in other degree courses, especially Peace Studies, Conflict Resolution and Military History. It is important to research all these courses carefully to check that the focus of the course matches your interests. Make sure that you check the content with the institutions you wish to apply to before you submit your application. The following list is intended as a guide to the topics that you may study:
- The causes of war
- The conduct of war
- Manpower, weapons, technology and ideology
- Security issues
- Conflict and stability
- Resistance and collaboration
- Intelligence in war studies
- Strategic studies
- War in international order
- War and society: Britain or America at war
- Armed forces and society
- War and the media
- Literature of war
- Philosophies of war
- International relations
- International history and politics
- War in history
- Naval history
- Contemporary wars and conflicts
- The Cold War 1941-1991
- World War I
- World War II
- Vietnam and America
- War, revolution and dictatorship in Europe
- Britain and the Falklands War
- Insurgency and counter-insurgency in the modern world
- Asian-Pacific security
- Research methods
Some Career possibilities
Graduates have gone into the Armed Forces, the Intelligence Service, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Civil Service. Others have gone into journalism, the media, commerce, banking, teaching, museum and heritage management and occupations needing analytical ability and a knowledge of international relations and security.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements vary depending on the course, but the list below will give you an idea of the grades and qualifications that you may need. It is important to check the entry requirements with the institutions themselves, before you submit your application.
- UCAS Tariff: 160 - 280 points
- A-levels: DDC - ABB
- SQA Highers: BBBCC
- SQA Advanced Highers: DD - BBC
- Irish Leaving Certificates: BBBBB
- International Baccalaureate: 26 - 32
- European Baccalaureate: 73%
- BTEC National Diploma: MM - MMP in a relevant subject
For your application or interview, evidence of the following could be useful:
- Keen interest in warfare, history, military history, politics, international relations, current affairs
- Awareness of current affairs
- Language abilities (for example, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Czech)
- A useful websites is the International Society for First World War Studies if your studies are focussing on this area.
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk
Credits: Some of this article was developed from You Want to Study WHAT?! Volume I, 2nd edition by Dianah Ellis, published by Trotman & Company Ltd, 2003.