STV4232B – Causes of War

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course will be replaced by STV4325B - The causes of Political Violence (from the Spring semester 2014).


The course provides an overview of the most important theories on the causes of war, with references to theories on interstate war, civil conflict and of the use of violence on a lower scale than war. The most important theoretical and empirical investigations on war will be presented and data will be made available for individual analysis.

Learning outcome


The students will become familiar with:

  • how conflict is defined, operationalized and coded.
  • central theoretical and empirical contributions to the scholarly literature on interstate and intrastate conflicts.
  • issues relating to non-state violence, and discuss issues relating to conflicts that do not involve the state as an actor.
  • bargaining and war, where the most important works on bargaining theory and conflict are presented.
  • polarity and balance of power and war, and discuss structural works on how facets of the world system induce conflict.
  • development and conflict, and discuss issues relating to the role of development in inducing especially civil conflict
  • issues relating to ethnicity, cleavages and conflict, and discuss issues relating to the link between economic inequality, political exclusion, ethnic cleavages and conflict.
  • the research on regimes and conflict, and discuss the connection between regime characteristics, as well as topics relating to the democratic peace theory.
  • institutional design and conflict, and discuss the link between specific institutions – with a focus on elections and power-sharing institutions – and conflict.
  • the debate about geography and conflict, and be able to discuss geographical and environmental issue, including the debate on climate change and conflict.
  • issues relating to recruitment to war, and discuss how fighting organizations recruit and retain personnel, and what this implies for conflict.


The students will:

  • Develop the ability to assess empirical contributions to the literature on armed conflict .
  • Develop practical skills in conducting systematic search for literature and data.
  • Acquire practical skills in conducting independent empirical study.


The students will:

  • Enhance their capability to think critically and reason about central arguments about the causes of armed conflict
  • Get a practical problem-driven approach to investigating the causes of conflict


Students admitted to other Master programs may also be qualified to apply for the course. Please contact the Department of Political Science.

Only students admitted to the course may take part in instruction and tuition and sit for the examination.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Bachelor's degree in Political Science or equivalent.

Recommended previous knowledge

Bachelor's degree in Political Science or equivalent.


10 lectures will be given. The lectures are held intensively for a period of 5 weeks, with the exam
in the sixth week. Some of the lectures will be given by guest lecturers from the Centre for the
Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


One academic paper (10-15 pages in total), and a 3-hour written exam.

The paper may be written alone or in groups of 2 (20 pages allowed) or 3 (30 pages allowed). In order to receive a passing grade on the essay, your topic will have to reflect the course readings and curriculum. All chosen topics should be approved by the course instructor before the deadline. An essay topic not reflecting the curriculum, will receive a failing grade (F).

The final paper counts 60% of the grade, and in order to pass the course, your essay and your written exam must be passed in the same semester as the course is taught. You will receive one overall grade for the course.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

It is possible to submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Examination results are available in StudentWeb within three weeks after the examination-date, if no other information is given on the Webpage for the current semester. Course grades are awarded on a descending scale using alphabetic grades from A to E for passes and F for fail.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Students who due to illness or other valid reason of absence were unable to sit for their final exams may apply for participation in make-up exams. Make-up exams are arranged either later in the same semester or early in the semester following the exam in question. Documentation of valid reasons for absence from the regular exam must be submitted upon application to participate in make-up exams.

Students who have failed an exam and students who wish to re-take an exam to achieve a better grade may not participate in make-up exams, but must re-take the exam when it is regularly scheduled.

Withdrawal from an examination

A student can sit for this exam up to 3 times. If a student wishes to withdraw from the exam, s/he must do this in StudentWeb at least two weeks prior to the first day of the exam. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit for the exam.

Special examination arrangements

Students may apply for access to alternative exam resources or exam forms on the basis of chronic illness and/or special needs that create a marked disadvantage to other students in the exam situation. Mothers who are breastfeeding may apply for extra time to complete the exam.

Facts about this course






Spring 2013


Spring 2013

Teaching language