TRN 409H/GLA 2050H


War and its Theorists

Instructors: Jack Cunningham
Duration: Winter 2016 term | Wednesdays, 2-4PM

This course examines the nature and dynamics of war throughout history, as they have been understood by major thinkers and writers from the ancient Greeks to contemporary theorists.

Introductory sessions expose students to the heroic conception of war and the martial virtues, as illustrated in Homer’s Iliad, and the analysis of the causes of war first propounded by Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War. Subsequent classes discuss the early modern “Military Revolution”, Jomini’s emphasis on the pursuit of the “decisive point” in battle, Clausewitz’s analysis of the relationship between war and politics, the nature of absolute and limited war, and the phenomenon of “friction”, and Mahan’s assessment of the nature and workings of seapower.

We will then proceed to assess the evolution of limitations on war and the Just War tradition, and the impact of industrialization and modern technology on warfare as both geopolitical instrument and lived experience. As we move into the Twentieth Century, we will explore the profoundly disillusioning experience of the First World War and its impact on the traditional heroic conception of warfare, the efforts of the theorists of airpower and unconventional warfare to find an alternative to the indecisive slaughter of the trenches, and close with an assessment of the first generation of nuclear strategists. Students will be exposed to both primary source material and the relevant secondary literature.

For the syllabus and readings, please click here.