BSocSc Politics and International Relations / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
War and Genocide in the 20th Century

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI30892
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course examines the relationship between war and genocide in the 20th century. War and genocide have been integral to the 20th century. This course seeks to show how such organised violence has distinctive, evolving dynamics that are a product of politics, society and technology. In order to do this, the course examines a series of historical cases including: the historical emergence of modern war; the total warfare of WWI and WWII; the so-called new and networked warfare of the late 20th and early 21st Century; and genocide in a number of forms. The course will also examine the question of the relation between colonialism and organised violence and the ways in which such an enquiry might help us to decolonise the study of war and genocide Overall the course will contend that war and genocide both reflect and constitute a complex relation between society, politics and technology in the 20th century.

Topics may include:

Decolonising War

Modern war

Total war

The Revolution in Military Affairs

New Wars, Netwars and Civil Wars

Colonial genocide

The Holocaust

Ethnic nationalism


Available to student on the following degree programmes: BSocSc Politics & IR, PMH, LwP, PPE, BASS Politics pathways and BA Econ single specialists in Politics, Politics and a Modern Language


This course aims to:

  • Outline the nature and politics of organised violence in the 20th century.
  • Identify 2 of the central forms of organised violence in the 20th century: war and genocide.
  • Show how each of these forms of organised violence evolves over time through the examination of appropriate case studies.
  • Examine the colonial history of war and genocide and engage with calls to decolonise the study of war.
  • Consider possible responses to war and genocide through prevention, intervention or justice.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to examine the way in which representative cases of war and genocide exemplify the way in which organised violence both reflects and constitutes relationships between politics, society and technology.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Understanding of key theories of war and genocide.
  2. Understanding of major historical cases of war and genocide in the long 20th Century.
  3. The ability to construct and communicate conceptual arguments through the analysis of empirical cases.

Assessment methods



% of final mark




Essay plan 1


500 words maximum

Essay 1


2500 words (+/- 10%)

Essay plan 2


500 words maximum

Essay 2


3000 words (+/- 10%)


Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

  1. Shaw, M, War and Genocide: Organized Killing in Modern Society (Cambridge: Polity, 2003)
  2. Jones, A, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, 2nd edition (London: Routledge, 2011)
  3. Maleševi¿, Siniša, The Sociology of War and Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  4. Shaw, M, The New Western Way of War (Cambridge: Polity, 2005)
  5. Kaldor, Mary, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge: Polity, 1999)
  6. Markusen, E and Kopf, D, The Holocaust And Strategic Bombing: Genocide And Total War In The Twentieth Century (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995)
  7. Shaw, M, What is Genocide?, 2nd edition (Cambridge, Polity, 2007)

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Leoni Connah Unit coordinator

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