Future of War

Key information

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FHEQ Level

Module overview

Scholarship and policy discussions on military affairs have become increasingly fixated on the challenge the rise of China poses to the powerful position of the United States. But the real issue is how technology is reshaping warfare by providing space for a range of new actors and practices. This module examines recent debates on how new weapons systems, including those that plan to shift warfare from near space to deep space, are reshaping conflict through the framework of revolutions in military affairs.

We will pay particular attention to the development of strategic thinking in non-western militaries, the new military importance this technology gives actors such as India and Japan in global military competition, and what this means for actors that are left behind due to resource constraints. The module will have a historical component by considering past revolutions in military affairs and the impact they had, including on diplomacy and policymaking, but the main focus will be on the development and trajectories of the militaries themselves into the future.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Prepare an independent analysis and assessment of the assumptions, logics, and modalities of theories regarding of the fields of military developments and strategic thinking through a research essay.
  • Assess analytical, prescriptive and empirical claims regarding the relationship between military actions and diplomatic consequences.
  • Orally appraise the validity of interpretations of the current and (hypothetical) future application of military forces and resources globally through individual presentation.
  • Critically analyse the key debates regarding the predictability of military competition and consequences in a written exam.


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 1 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Beyond Clausewitz – how non-Western Militaries think today
  2. Revolution in Military Affairs as an interpretive framework: history and future.
  3. The Rise and Fall of the PRC Challenge to US Global Military Hegemony
  4. A Premature Paradigm?: The Myth of the US being in Decline
  5. The Continuity and Shape of Subconventional War
  6. Theorists versus Practitioners
  7. The Future Military Role of Japan and India
  8. Debates over ethics in the ‘’Future’’ Age of Robot Armies and Quadriped Rifles
  9. Being Left Behind, the Resource Constraints on Global (and Regional) Military Competition in the Global South
  10. Space War: Theories about the future of war in the Medium and Long Term Views

Method of assessment

Research essay 50%

Written examination 50%

Suggested reading

Bowen, War in Space: Strategy, Spacepower, Geopolitics (2020)

Daniel & Rogers, The First Space War: How Patterns of History and the Principles of STEM will Shape its Form (2020)

Egnell & Alam, Women and Gender Perspectives in the Military (2019)

Freedman, The Future of War: A History (2018)

Johnson, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare: the US, China, and Strategic Stability (2021)

Joshi & Das, The future of war in South Asia: Innovation, technology and organisation (2021)

Klein, Understanding Space Strategy: The Art of War in Space (2020)

Lambeth, Mastering the Ultimate High Command; Next Steps in the Military Uses of Space

Latiff, Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield (2017)

Scharr, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules