Syllabus for Causes of War

Orsaker till krig


  • 15 credits
  • Course code: 2FK008
  • Education cycle: Second cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Peace and Conflict Studies A1N
  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2007-01-24
  • Established by:
  • Revised: 2019-05-09
  • Revised by: The Department Board
  • Applies from: Autumn 2019
  • Entry requirements:

    A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university. Also required is 90 credits in peace and conflict studies, or 90 credits in a related relevant discipline and at least 30 credits in peace and conflict studies or the equivalent.

  • Responsible department: Department of Peace and Conflict Research

Learning outcomes

After completion of this course the student is expected to be able to:

  • Account for the central theories, themes and empirical evidence relating to the causes of intrastate and inter-state armed conflict, as well as other forms of political violence
  • Critically evaluate how different causes of armed conflict, such as poverty, inequality, natural resource wealth, and state weakness, may interact.
  • Independently analyse the causes of armed conflict, including being able to account for the role of state- and non-state actors.
  • Systematically and critically integrate and apply different perspectives on armed conflict in the analysis of a particular case.
  • Account for why and under what circumstances tensions and incompatibilities between and within groups, societies and states sometimes pass the threshold of organised armed violence.
  • Independently and critically identify and analyse research problems and practical-political issues related to the causes of armed conflict, and how they relate to other societal phenomena.
  • Critically present - orally and in writing - state-of-the-art overviews as well as own analyses in the field. This refers to the ability to design a research task or a policy report, collect and analyse the relevant data with good academic insight and methodological skills, and present the results within a stipulated time frame, in English.


This course focuses on the causes of different types of armed conflict. The course underlines the complexity of the subject matter, clarifies similarities and differences between different theories, and stresses the large number of explanatory factors at work at different levels of analysis.

Armed conflicts are caused by many interacting factors-for example from the economic, political and social arenas-at different levels of analysis (individual, local, national, regional and international). The course is mainly focused on factors explaining the outbreak of intra-state armed conflicts (civil wars), as this is the most common type of armed conflict. International and inter-state wars are also studied, as well as other types of conflicts and organised political violence, e.g. violence against civilians. The special role of the state in different types of armed conflict is emphasised. Different theoretical perspectives are examined and compared. Theories are connected to empirical examples from past and ongoing armed conflicts around the globe in order to improve the students' understanding of the usefulness of the theories in terms of interpreting real world events and developments. Students also develop more detailed knowledge of particular armed conflicts during the writing of the final course paper.

The format of the course includes lectures and different types of seminars. The lectures cover explanations for both interstate and intrastate conflicts, as well as particular aspects of conflict onset, escalation, and dynamics. The insights and skills acquired during the course are presented in a final Course Paper. As with all courses and programmes at the advanced level, this means that students are obliged to work independently with assessing and synthesizing the literature, through reading on their own, as well as organising student-led seminars or study groups.


The course is given in the form of lectures and seminars.


Examination and final grading is based on student performance in four respects:

  • A final course memo in the form of a written academic paper.
  • Being discussant on another student's draft course paper.
  • Presentations of seminar assignments.
  • Active participation in lectures and seminars.

Grades: Pass with distinction (VG), Pass (G), Fail (U).

Two retake opportunities are offered every semester the course is given. This takes the form of a 'revise and resubmit' of the final course memo.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: Autumn 2021

Some titles may be available electronically through the University library.

Detailed and up-to-date information about the reading list for this year will be made available in the Course Guide.

Reading list revisions

Last modified: 2022-04-26