Department of Political Science



Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr M. Rodwan Abouharb (Department of Political Science)


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

This course will examine a variety of alternative theoretical explanations for how civil conflicts begin. The course begins with an overview of the disciplines knowledge about the determinants of civil conflict.

The course then proceeds by introducing the student to the different theoretical explanations for civil conflict and the empirical research that has been undertaken to test these different theories. In particular:

  1. Examine the development of the literature and the variety of alternative theoretical explanations for why people rebel against their state.
  2. Also examine the importance of international factors that impact the likelihood of civil conflict
  3. Examine the consequences of civil wars for civilians.

The course critically reviews the impact that politics plays on the advent, continuation, and consequences of civil conflict. Students are invited to reflect upon the state of the discipline and areas of fruitful future research.

Course aims:

  • To provide an understanding of the different theoretical perspectives concerning why civil conflicts begin, and what are their consequences.
  • To assist students in developing a conceptually and empirically informed understanding of the debates surrounding the civil conflict.
  • To introduce students to the debates in the literature on civil conflict.
  • To qualify an international group of postgraduate students who may wish to proceed to further specialised study of civil conflict and/or employment in a related field.
  • To develop key skills associated with: reading about, understanding and discussing conceptual issues and theoretical debates; applying concepts and theories to the empirical study of civil conflict; writing essays and presenting them in seminars, and to participate in group discussions.

Course objectives:

  • By the end of the course students recognise, outline the key elements of, and differentiate between the main theoretical approaches to the study of civil conflict.
  • Students will be able to critically review and apply the different approaches to the study of civil conflict.
  • They will have gained the theoretical skills to systematically analyse key issues associated with civil conflict onset and its consequences.
  • Students will demonstrate systematic reading and clarity of expression in developing written and oral arguments for and against specific positions, and to recognise the theoretical principles on which such arguments are based.

The course is not designed to teach you how to run regression analysis which you will be learning in your methods class, but you should know and we will go through how to understand the output from regression analysis. To be sure you will also do this in your methods class.