Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap
Tied to M1K607
Tied to M1K507
Tied to M9L007
Tied to M9K607
Tied to L2K407
Tied to L2K707


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module aims to give students an appropriately advanced understanding of the major themes of the Just War tradition, including placing them in the context of historical development, and to encourage them to explore these in relation to certain key events and examples in the conduct of warfare.


  • The module falls into two main parts: the first looks at the development and structure of Just War theory, whilst the second considers key controversies in applying Just War thinking to specific conflicts or military operations.
  • Part 1: The development and structure of Just War thinking.
  • 1. Introduction to the module
  • 2. The origins of Just War thinking and the rejection of pacifism
  • 3. The changing legitimation of war: jus ad bellum
  • 5. The changing rules of combat: jus in bello
  • 5. Contemporary Just War thinking: Michael Walzer's 'war convention'.
  • Part 2: Contemporary challenges in Just War thinking.
  • 6. Just cause and self-defence in contemporary politics: preventative war.
  • 7. Legitimate authority and international organisations: invading Iraq.
  • 8. Non-combatant immunity1: 'collateral damage'.
  • 9. Non-combatant immunity 2: terrorists as combatants.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should have:
  • the ability to master the complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills concerning:-
  • the organisation of the Just War tradition, e.g the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello; key principles, such as just cause, legitimate authority, discrimination, proportionality and others.
  • the controversies and debates relating to the origins and development of the Just War tradition as a form of political theory and its complex relationship with political practice.
  • key controversies in the development and application of Just War thinking to specific conflicts and operations.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • The ability to use and criticize relevant advanced theoretical models and approaches to the study of the Just War tradition.
  • The advanced analytical skills necessary to enable the application of Just War thinking in various instances of conflict, reaching appropriate judgments in complex, controversial and specialized areas.
  • The ability to recognize, analyse and account for the part played in the Just War tradition on the practice of politics.
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits.
  • Advanced essay-writing skills.
  • The ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching and learning are through 2-hour seminars in which students will be expected to discuss and analyse, with the guidance of the tutor, central aspects of the Just War tradition and its application to specific conflicts and military options. The first part of the course will look at the development and structure of Just War thinking, whilst the second part will analyse key controversies and debates through the use of appropriate cases.
  • This approach requires students to deploy their research skills in preparation for seminars and to be able to analyse complex and difficult theoretical and practical issues, articulate their conclusions and defend their analysis in class, encouraging independent learning, thought and analytical skills.
  • Summative assessment is by 3000-word essay chosen from a list of topics by the tutor. This will require students to research, prepare and write a highly analytical essay that displays a knowledge of theoretical issues and an ability to relate those to practice through the analysis of a case or related cases. Additionally, students will present a short discussion paper to the seminar in relation to one of the weekly topics, providing a basis for formative assessment and feedback.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 weekly 2 hours 18
Preparation & Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 4,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

10-15 minute discussion paper presented to the seminar group.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University