MLitt War Studies

An understanding of war, for good or ill, is of vital importance. This programme offers the opportunity to study the theory and practice of war in a wide range of aspects, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and from causes to consequences.

Key facts

Why Glasgow
  • The MLitt in War Studies aims to challenge, educate and engage by exposing you to a wide range of different ideas about war. It is specifically designed to broaden and deepen your knowledge of warfare.
  • The University of Glasgow is home to the Scottish Centre for War Studies. You will be able to participate in the conferences and seminars we organise on critical themes related to conflict.
  • All courses are designed to expose you to detailed research topics, source criticism and current debate, and are led by acknowledged international experts.
Programme Structure

You will spend a semester studying on the degree’s core course which covers both the major thinkers on warfare and the practice and conduct of war.

Core topics may include

  • Jomini, aggressive warfare and the Confederate States of America at war
  • The evolution of Military Thought between the two World Wars
  • Europe’s ‘small wars’, 1800–present
  • Vegetius and ‘Vegetian strategy’ in medieval warfare.

In the second semester, you will take three optional courses which delve in greater detail into a particular aspect of military or strategic history.

Optional courses may include

  • Chivalry and warfare in later medieval Europe, 1300–1450
  • The American way of warfare; from the Revolution to the War on Terror
  • Insurgency and counter-insurgency, 1800-present
  • Western intelligence in an age of terror.

You will complete the programme by writing a dissertation based on your own research. This requires you to engage in original research guided by an expert in the field.

Background and aims

The MLitt in War Studies aims to challenge, educate and engage students by exposing you to a wide range of different ideas about war in all its aspects.  You will spend a semester studying on the degree’s core course which covers both the major thinkers on warfare and the practice and conduct of war. In the second semester, you will take three optional courses which delve in great detail into a particular aspect of military or strategic history. Each optional course is led by an acknowledged international expert in the field. The courses are designed to expose you to detailed research topics, source criticism and current debate.

You will complete the course by writing a dissertation based on your own research. This requires you to engage in original research guided by an expert in the field.

Core and optional courses

Core Course

Theory and Reality in Western Warfare

The core course aims to cover many of the most interesting theoretical discussions in the history of western warfare, while also allowing students to test just how ‘theory’ reacts when it is applied to the real world.

Specifically, by the end of this core course the student should:

  1. Be knowledgeable of the some of the most important theoretical developments in western warfare, and how these different theories fared when they were put in practice
  2. Be able to understand and evaluate historical ideas on western warfare from a number of different periods, nations, and historical perspectives
  3. Be able to integrate their own thoughts with primary source material, secondary source material, and information gathered from instructor presentations, to create informed, interesting and persuasive presentations
  4. Be able to write essays consistent with work at the post-graduate level.

Course Structure

The core course is mandatory for all students in the first term and will be class-taught. It will meet twice per week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-5pm); each week the class will focus on one specific subject. During the first meeting of the week the leading instructor will give a presentation on a particular subject, while the second meeting will be based around student presentations on the same subject.

Topics covered in the course include:

  • Clausewitz and European Armies 1871-1914
  • Mahan and Sea Power
  • Moltke and the War of German Unification
  • Theory of Small Arms Control
  • Early Modern Warfare: The Historiographical Debate

Each student will be assessed through their performance in one essay and two oral seminar presentations and papers. Overall, the mark in the core course will compose one-third of the student’s final mark for the MLitt.

Optional courses

Western Intelligence in an Age of Terror – Professor Peter Jackson

This course surveys the way western intelligence agencies (primarily those of Britain and the United States) have dealt with the key security challenges of the early twenty-first century. It will introduce students to a number of concepts central to the study of intelligence and then apply these concepts to the study of intelligence responses to international challenges since the end of the Cold War.

Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency, 1800-present – Dr Alex Marshall

This course will introduce students to the key theoretical frameworks behind the phenomena of social mobilization, organised political rebellion, and counter-insurgency from both a purely theoretical and practical perspective, making use of both primary and secondary sources. From the very broadest theoretical outline as to why rebellions and insurgencies occur, the course will then lead students right up to a consideration of present-day dilemmas currently being faced in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American Way of War: From the Revolution to the War on Terror – Dr Phillips O’Brien

This course examines changing American notions of war over time, to both educate the students about the how the power of America has developed, the role it played in many international wars, and how it has accumulated the military that it has today. The course is divided into ten sessions, each dealing with a different aspects and developments of the American military power.

  • The American Revolution: The United States as Small Power.
  • The American Civil War: Grant, Sherman and the Notion of Total War
  • ‘Small Wars’, Early Wars of American Imperial Power
  • The First World War: America on the Verge of World Power
  • The Second World War I, The Role American Land/Air Power in the Defeat of Germany
  • The Second World War II, Naval and Economic Warfare and the Destruction of Japan
  • American Nuclear Doctrine in the Cold War
  • Vietnam: The Politics of the use of American Power
  • The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Transformation of American Military Power: The First Gulf War and the Former Yugoslavia
  • The War on Terror and America as World Military Hegemon

Chivalry and Warfare in Late Medieval Europe, c. 1300 to c. 1500 – Professor Matthew Strickland

This course aims to explore the nature of chivalry in aristocratic culture and in particular in relation to the conduct of warfare in theory and in practice. This module will examine key aspects of the debate surrounding the idea that, by the fifteenth century, concepts of chivalry had become ossified and anachronistic. It shall explore the role played by the ‘law of arms’ in later medieval chivalry, and examine the operation of conventions of ransom and the profits of war which were a key incentive in the prosecution of war. The ambiguous relationship between notions of chivalry and the impact of war on the population at large will also be examined.

Sessions will include the following topics:

  • Huizinga, Keen and the Scope of the Debate
  • The Knight Redundant? (i) The Man-at-Arms and the ‘Infantry Revolution’
  • The Knight Redundant? (ii) Artillery and the Rise of Firearms
  • Laws of Siege and Rituals of Capitulation
  • Prisoners, Ransom and the Courts of Chivalry
  • Chivalry, War and the Non-Combatant
  • Captains and Condottieri: War as a Profession
  • Crusading: A Noble Anachronism?
  • The Secular Orders of Knighthood
  • Jousts of Peace, Jousts of War: The Tournament and late Medieval Chivalry

Scottish Castles in a European Context, c. 1100 to c.1750 – Professor Stephen Driscoll & Professor Matthew Strickland

Whether the great fortified crags of Edinburgh, Stirling or Dumbarton, or the numerous ruined or still inhabited tower-houses visible across the country, the castle has long formed one of the most striking features of Scotland’s landscape. This course traces the evolution of the castle from its introduction by the Franco-Norman knights serving the twelfth century kings of Scots, asking what it was that made the castle distinctive form earlier forms of defence and power centres. It continues through to the First War of Independence (1296-1328), when many of the country’s finest fortifications, constructed in a period of comparative peace during the thirteenth century, were deliberately ruined to prevent them being used as bases for English occupation, to the later Middle Ages and into the sixteenth century, when distinctive forms of fortified lordly residences developed, above all the tower house. Much recent historiography has sought to downplay the military aspects of the castle, stressing instead the primacy of residential functions and design. Equally, the importance is increasingly being recognized of studying castles not in isolation but within their wider landscapes. This course will examine these debates and apply them to the study of castles in Scotland, a land where geographical and political factors led to marked regional divergence in their forms and purposes. It will also seek to place their evolution within the wider context of the military, political and social influences from Europe, not least France, with which Scotland had long enjoyed the ‘Auld Alliance’ against England. In so doing, the course utilizes a range of historical and archaeological evidence.

The Wars of Decolonization and the Making of the Global Cold War – Dr Mathilde von Bulow

This course investigates the history of refugees and statelessness across the world since the start of the twentieth century, taking an interdisciplinary approach to understand how population displacement has related to conflict, nationalism, state formation, and the development of international institutions.

Crusading Warfare in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1096 to 1291

Drawing on recent debates about the functions and development of military fortifications and the formation of a ‘crusading ethos’ in medieval western Europe after 1099, this course will explore the culture and conduct of war in the religiously charged context of the crusades in the Eastern Mediterranean. Examining the history of crusader warfare through the interpretive lenses of acculturation and cultural brokerage, it will identify key aspects of cross-fertilization and cultural conservatism in military tactics, developments and conduct, thereby contributing to a better understanding of medieval military culture before the age of chivalry.

Entry requirements

for entry in 2015

Entry requirements for postgraduate taught programmes are a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent qualification (for example, GPA 3.0 or above) in a relevant subject unless otherwise specified.

You must also submit a brief statement (no longer than one page) outlining your interest in the programme.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2015-16 (subject to change and for guidance only)


Home and EU
Full time fee £6800
Part time 20 credits £756
Full time fee £14500

Funding opportunities

Career prospects
The programme provides an excellent platform for you to move onto PhD studies and an academic career.
How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU) 24 July 2015
  • UK and EU applications 28 August 2015
    (with the exception of those programmes offering SFC funded places)

Classes start September 2015 for most programmes and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.