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Peace Studies: History, Theories and Concepts


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management, enrolled in the specialisation ‘War and Peace Studies’, can take this course.


This course is an advanced introduction to the history, core concepts, and scholarly debates related to the academic field of peace studies. You will study the concept of peace and its various dimensions as analysed by core peace thinkers and you will examine how peace is conceived of by multiple policy actors in practice. You will interrogate the different approaches to understanding peace, from a variety of political thinkers including Hobbes, Kant, Rawls, and Machiavelli. You will then explore the theories of peace espoused by prominent peace theorists such as Ledarach, Galtung and the Bouldings. Empirical topics covered on the course include the protection of civilians (POC), the role of the UN in promoting peace, just war theory, western approaches to peace activism, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), conflict related sexual violence (CRSV), and gender in peacemaking and peacekeeping. In this course, we will also focus on reviewing, analysing and assessing existing knowledge ensuring you develop critical analysis skills by interrogating key texts, concepts, and scholarly traditions.

In this course, we will focus on critically reviewing existing knowledge. This means that you will learn how to develop an advanced critical analysis by interrogating key texts, deploying independent judgment, and presenting this knowledge both orally and in writing at a level appropriate for a Master’s student. This course is taught in a highly interactive fashion, and you will work individually and in groups.

Course objectives

By the end of this course students will:

Academic skills
1. Understand the main theoretical and conceptual approaches taken in the study of peace;
2. Understand the accomplishments and shortcomings of the academic study of peace in terms of topical focus and conceptual approaches, and real-world impact;
3. Identify new and long-standing topics within peace studies;
4. Critically assess the degree to which research on peace is able to provide answers to practical issues surrounding the promotion of peace;

Research skills
5. Critically evaluate existing research in peace studies, from conceptual and theoretical viewpoints.

Professional skills
6. Transfer these academic insights into a professional policy context;
7. Self-evaluate and reflect after interactive in-class work and individual assignments;
8. Present arguments and analyses in a format appropriate for both an academic and broader professional audience;
9. Collaborate in a team on a collective project in-class.


On the right side of programme front page of the studyguide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Attendance is not mandatory, but highly recommended in order to pass the course. Active participation during the sessions benefits the students in preparing for assessments.

Total study load: 280 hours
Contact hours: 42 hours
Self-study hours (reading, preparing lectures, assignments, reflection, etc.): 238 hours

In this 10 ects course, 4 ects is specifically reserved for the assignment that is going to be part of the portfolio of students, including working on their interim reflection paper as preparation for the final reflection paper. Specific information on the portfolio assignment and the intended learning outcomes that are being acquired will be published in the syllabus of this course.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on three components:

Assignment 1: Critical Reflection

  • 25% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated in case of a fail (< 5.50)

  • Resit not possible

Assignment 2: Group Assignment Critical Literature review

  • 25% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated in case of a fail (< 5.50)

  • Resit not possible

Assignment 3: Policy paper

  • 50% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit is possible

  • Resit will take the same form.

Additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.

The calculated overall course grade must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. If the calculated overall course grade is lower than 5.50, students are also permitted to resit the 60% Policy paper.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

Transitional arrangements
Grades obtained in the year 2022-2023 will remain valid in the year 2023-2024 but they will weigh towards the final grade in accordance with the weight given to partial grades in the year 2023-2024

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, will be provided in the course outline on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams).
Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.
Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 13 December 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.


dr. Vanessa Newby

dr. Gjovalin Macaj