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Studies in Conflict: From Algeria to Iraq


Admission requirements

Completion of Studies in War: From the Crimea to the Second World War is recommended, but not required.


The era after the Second World War was marked by struggles for independence and a predominance of intra-state conflicts, often marked by the relatively new phenomenon of “guerrilla war”. This reading-intensive course will study some of the main conflicts that have occurred since 1945 – beginning with the wars in Indo-China (1946-54) and Algeria (1954-62) that saw the end of France as a colonial power. The Franco-Vietnamese conflict led almost directly to the American involvement in South Vietnam which only ended in 1975 with the defeat of the South. As that conflict ended a quite different conflict began in Lebanon – a civil war (1975-90) that also saw repeated incursions from the bordering states of Syria and Israel, the involvement by proxy of practically every single Middle Eastern state, and the dispatch of UN and “international” (US-led) ‘peacekeeping’ missions.

Whilst at the time seen almost as an aberration, a quite separate conflict erupted in Afghanistan during the late 1970s with the take-over of power by the local communist party leading to an Islamic revolt and the occupation of the country by the Soviet Union. The decade long struggle against Soviet occupation is – to a degree – mirrored in the continuing struggle in Afghanistan, a country which has been in the grip of a “ceaseless” conflict for over forty years.

Finally the American incursions of the beginning of the 21st century will be studied – concentrating on the conflict in Iraq.

Besides giving students a clear understanding of the background and consequences of these conflicts, they should also gain a perspective of how immensely difficult it is for outside powers to intervene in any other state and of the absolute need for a deep understanding of societies that are so very different to those of the West. Linked to this students will be able to critically analyze the impact traditional mass media and social media have had, both in covering the conflicts and in fostering resistance or opposition to the powers that be.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate clear insight into some of the conflicts that have occurred in the 70 years since the 2nd World War – specifically in North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan: the principle region in which western governments and armed forces have been engaged of late.

  • explain and analyse the political, social and regional effects of military intervention. Students will know how the decision of outside powers (whether France, the US or the Soviet Union) to intervene militarily impacted on societies as different as Algeria, Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq. They will also show an appreciation of how the nature of warfare has changed over the past 70 years and of how that both limits and augments the possibilities for future military intervention.

  • critically review the effects and limitations of the traditional mass media in the internet age in covering both inter- and intra-state wars in the 21st century and the effects that has on political decision making.

  • describe and analyse the role of traditional media and social media are playing in helping to augment opposition and even engender revolution in certain autocratic societies.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Apart from doing the first week, when there will be two lectures, classes will be split by lectures and student-led discussions and presentations. There will be a set book to accompany the lecture every week, about which students will be expected to write a 600-800 word essay.

Assessment Method

In class participation: 10%
Presentation and leading class discussion: 10%
Six weekly essays (600-800 words): 10%
Final essay (1000 – 1200 words): 20%

Reading list

Required Books (on which the essay will be written):

The Centurions – Jean Larteguy
The Question - Henri Alleg
Dispatches – Michael Herr
My War Gone By, I Miss It So – Anthony Loyd
Zinky Boys – Svetlana Alexievich
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning – Chris Hedges
No Good Men Among the Living - Anand Gopal


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Aernout van Lynden,