SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H214 Violence in History

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1
Violence in general and war in particular are often understood from a Western perspective. War is seen to conflict with the ideals of the Enlightenment, to be structured in the way proposed by Clausewitz, and yet to be an important part of the politics of the home and the nation. From a broader, global perspective, however, war has come to encompass a great many things that have nothing or little to do with this evaluation. Different societies and cultures manifest and experience war and violence in many ways. Far from the negative value often attached to war in the post-Enlightenment West, war is sometimes viewed as having a positive role in society. This module therefore seeks to understand war and violence from a non- Western perspective -- to understand how they emerge from particular historical circumstances and how they produce different consequences in different periods and geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious contexts.

A student successfully completing this module will have learned how to distinguish between popular representations of war and violence and their historical realities. In doing so, they will also have learned why the history of violence, its material consequences, and the construction of this experience manifest themselves differently in non-western societies than they do in the West.

Students will learn how to develop historical questions regarding representations of war and violence in popular media or scholarly literature, to use the library and other research tools (electronic databases and existing bibliographies for example) to develop a short bibliography of their own, and to write a research-based essay. They will also take an exam on the topics covered by the course.

A student taking this course will be exposed to a wide array of representations of warfare, violence, and their consequences, some of which may be difficult to watch or read. Prospective students should consider this when electing to take this course.


  • This Module is capped at 45 places
  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

LO1.Distinguish what makes a research question historical, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to a problem and of the possibilities and limits of various kinds of sources.
LO2. Produce and refine such a question through the identification of, engagement with, and critique of existing historiography, using the conceptual tools of the module to reframe prior learning.
LO3. Integrate material from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary, in order to explore a research question and hypothesis.
LO4. Present the findings of the research in a way that demonstrates a capacity to think conceptually, while developing competency as a historian.

Scope and syllabus

1 -  Memory
2 -  Violence and War 3 - Just and UnJust Wars  4 - Shaping the Warrior  5 -  Photography  6 -  Resistance in the Age of Expansion  7 -  Armed Modernity  8 -  Internecine Conflict  9 -  State and Extra-State Warfare 10-  Aftermath of Violence

Method of assessment

Written exam worth 50%, Research proposal for AS2, incorporating a literature discussion and preliminary bibliography of 500 words worth 10%, Short research paper of 2,500 words worth 40%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules