Political Science | The Evolution of War
Y396 | 3735 | Thompson


This seminar will tackle the nature of the evolution of war from its
origins thousands of years ago to the contemporary era.  Several
assertions will guide this examination.  One is that the practice of
war has co-evolved with military technology/institutions/doctrine,
political organization, and political-economic context.  That is,
changes in one sphere tend to lead to changes in the others.  Second,
the characteristic nature of change in military
institutions/technology tends to be episodic and revolutionary (as
opposed to continuous and gradual). Third, the norm within the
western trajectory (ancient Near East and Western Europe/North
America) prior to about 1500 was for one state to monopolize military
leadership, thereby creating a history of intermittent empire.
Fourth, this tendency was over-ridden by successful power balancing
in Western Europe to an extent probably unknown in earlier times and
other trajectories (eg, Chinese, Indian, MesoAmerican, Peruvian, West
African and so forth).  Students will write four relatively short
papers at appropriate intervals during the course (thereby fulfilling
the intensive writing requirement)  that explore the iterations in
the western trajectory, that compare the western trajectory with the
non-western trajectories, and that assess the validity of the four
assertions made above.