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Introduction to Strategic Studies

Module titleIntroduction to Strategic Studies
Module codePOL1028
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Martin Robson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will provide you with an introduction to Strategic Studies, which lies at the crossroads of inquiry within the subject areas of history, politics, economics, geography, and law. It focuses on the use of force and how force is employed to achieve political objectives. The study of war and warfare remains as important as ever; from ongoing violence in Syria to the established global order being challenged in East Asia, it is essential to study the conceptual tools and history of strategic thinking and practice in this age of strategic complexity.

Introduction to Strategic Studies will provide you with an introduction to the fundamentals of classical strategic theory, as well as the dimensions in which strategy is practised, before taking you through the history of how strategy has been applied. The end point is to make you aware of the challenges, questions and debates that face strategists when looking towards understanding the complex contemporary strategic environment. Equipping yourself with a solid foundation in strategic thinking will allow you to fully benefit from more advanced modules offered by the Department of Politics and the Strategy and Security Institute. No prior knowledge is required in order to register for this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will:

  • Introduce you to the basic concepts in strategic theory.
  • Enable you to explore the dimensions in which strategy is practiced.
  • Enable you to examine and analyse how strategy has been practiced throughout different historical periods in order to achieve awareness of the differences between the ages.
  • Enable you to explore in particular the problems and challenges that resulted from significant changes in the practice of warfare.
  • Provide you with a foundational basis for further graduate study and post-graduate study in defence and security issues, or for a career in government, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, media, or the security forces.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of the nature of strategy and its manifestation across different dimensions of warfare.
  • 2. Demonstrate knowledge of theoretical thinkers behind various forms of strategic practice.
  • 3. Demonstrate knowledge of the evolution of the practice of warfare throughout the ages.
  • 4. Demonstrate knowledge of the challenges posed to strategic thinking and practice at the turn of the 21st century.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Examine secondary and primary source material in the field of war, strategic and conflict studies.
  • 6. Demonstrate awareness of the key concepts and debates relating to the study of war and its changing character.
  • 7. Evaluate competing conceptions and theories of warfare.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Study independently and manage time and assessment deadlines effectively.
  • 9. Communicate effectively in writing.
  • 10. Demonstrate analytical skills through tutorial discussions and module assessments.
  • 11. Demonstrate proficiency in the use of the internet, online journal databases and other IT resources for the purposes of tutorial and assessment preparation.
  • 12. Work independently, within a limited time frame, and without access to external sources, to complete a specified task.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What is strategy?
  • Strategic Dimensions – Land warfare’;
  • Strategic Dimensions – Naval warfare;
  • Strategic Dimensions – Air warfare;
  • Strategic Dimensions – Space warfare;
  • Strategic Dimensions – Cyber warfare;
  • Strategic Practice – Classical warfare;
  • Strategic Practice – Early modern warfare;
  • Strategic Practice – Napoleonic warfare;
  • Strategic Practice – Total War;
  • Strategic Practice – The Cold War;
  • Strategy towards the 21st century.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activity16.511 x 1.5 hr lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity1010 x 1 hr tutorials
Guided independent study40Tutorial preparation
Guided independent study83.5Assessment preparation and completion


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Strategy assessment500 words1-11Oral
Essay Outline500 words1-11Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination401 hour1-12Written
Essay602,500 words1-11Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination (1 hour)1-12August /September reassessment period
EssayEssay (2,500 words)1-11August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Barkawi, T. Globalization and War (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)

Baylis, J., Wirtz, J., Gray, C.S., Strategy in the Contemporary World 5th Edition (Oxford: OUP, 2016)

Beckett, I. Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and their Opponents since 1750 (Routledge, 2001)

Corbett, J.S., Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, (London: Longmans Green, 1911)

Freedman, L., Strategy: A History (Oxford: OUP, 2013)

Gray, C.S. Modern strategy (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Heuser, B., The Evolution of Strategy: thinking war from antiquity to the present, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Jordan, D. et al, Understanding Modern Warfare (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)

Knox, M., Murray, W., The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 (Cambridge: CUP, 2001)

Lebow, R.N. Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Mahnken, T., Maiolo, J. (ed), Strategic Studies: A Reader 2nd Edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014)

Murray, W., Knox, W., Bernstein, A., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War (Cambridge: CUP, 1994)

Porter, P. Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes (Hurst, 2009)

Smith, R. The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Allen Lane, 2005)

Strachan, H. and Schiepers, S. (eds.), The Changing Character of War (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Strachan, H., The Direction of War : Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective,

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Townshend, C. (ed.), The Oxford History of Modern War (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Tzu, Sun (Samuel B. Griffiths trans.), The Art of War (Oxford: OUP, 1971)

Von Clausewitz, C. On War. Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton University Press, 1976)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Combating Terrorism Centre (Westpoint):

UK Defence Academy:

‘MERLIN’ US National Defence University:

US Army War College:

International Studies Association web resources:

US Naval Postgraduate School:

US Homeland Security:

UK Resilience (Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat):

Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies:

Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs):

International Institute for Strategic Studies:

Brookings Institute:

Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies:

Centre for Defence Information:

CIA Factbook:

Human Rights Watch

International Crisis Group:

Rand Corporation:

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other materials and resources will be identified by the module convener in lectures and via ELE and by tutors in tutorials.

Key words search

War; strategy; warfare; cyberspace; cold war; conflict

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date