Causes of War

15 credits

Syllabus, Master's level, 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)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 5 April 2023
Responsible department
Department of Peace and Conflict Research

Entry requirements

Fulfilment of the requirements for a Bachelor's degree, from an internationally recognised university. Also required is 30 credits in peace and conflict studies, or the equivalent. Proficiency in English equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6.

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 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 develop into 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.
  • 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.
  • Independently solve assignments within allocated time.
  • Communicate in English, in writing and/or orally.


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

Armed conflicts are caused by many interacting factors (e.g., economic, political and social) 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 promote the students' understanding of the usefulness of the theories for analysing and understanding 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 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. Students should work with the literature and course materials independently, and should independently organize student-led seminars or study-groups.


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


Examination and final grading is based on student performance on:

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

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

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.

Uppsala University does not accept cheating and plagiarism. Suspected incidents of cheating or plagiarism are reported to the Vice-Chancellor, which may issue a formal warning to the student or suspend the student from studies for a certain period.