Due to the Corona virus education methods or examination can deviate. For the latest news please check the course page in Brightspace.


nl en

Global Challenges 1: Peace




Admission Requirements

This is a compulsory course for all first-year students.


What is the idea of ‘peace’? Is peace merely the absence of war, the equilibrium among powers, or can it also mean something else? Is peace a condition of emancipation, a status quo, or is it a system of hegemonic stability? Is peace in human history a state of normality or a state of exception? How can peace be acquired, whatever it may mean? And above all, what is the relationship between peace and war?

This course aims to contemplate the aforementioned questions by investigating its opposite: ‘war’, broadly defined. As noted by many political philosophers, peace, in both theoretical and empirical terms, is closely connected to war, conflict and violence. This course aims to look into several aspects of war as well as prescriptions for peace, such as the place of war and peace in human history, causes of war, just and unjust wars, laws of war, representations of war, and the political and cultural conditions of peace.

In addition, this course is intended to examine the nexus between theory and practice in relation to peace and war. Two seminars will follow the plenary lecture each week. In these workgroups, students work on their own case study and have the opportunity to put theory into practice. This course is not intended to provide students with the answer of what the idea of peace means; rather, it is designed to make and assist students consider of how peace can be thought.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  • Understand the complexity of the concepts of peace & war

  • Understand the different disciplinary approaches to peace & war

  • Distinguish between normative and empirical approaches

  • Apply disciplinary ideas on peace & war in a specific region or institution

  • Find, evaluate and critically read relevant academic literature and other information

  • Report on their findings orally and in writing using the appropriate formats

Mode of Instruction

The course is taught through a weekly two-hour plenary lecture (Monday) and two two-hour seminars (Wednesday and Friday). The plenary lectures discuss the concept of peace from various perspectives and disciplines, and introduce the methodology to research it within the given discipline as well. Seminars provide an environment in which students can apply their new knowledge in smaller groups (7 groups in total). They complete assignments that not only require them to apply their knowledge, but also to train their academic skills. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions, participate in seminar discussions, present and defend their ideas within an academic setting, and take part in group projects. The role of the seminar instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has ‘required reading’ that must be read in advance of each seminar. In addition to the required reading, some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ may be of interest to students if they would like to study the topic further. Students can also use ‘suggested reading’ as an extended list and as a starting point in their preparation for the final essay.


Assessment: Case Presentations and Participation
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Individual Take-Home Exam Essays
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Weeks 7 (Wednesday at 23:59)

Assessment: Case Joint Report (5,000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8 (Wednesday at 23:59)


There is no single textbook for the course. All the course materials will be available electronically via your course website on blackboard, except for the following texts:

Walzer, Michael (1997, 2000) Just and Unjust War: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Book).

Howard, Michael (1976, 2009) War in European History (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

The acquisition of these two books is recommended but not compulsory. They are available at your local libraries in The Hague and the Leiden University libraries.

Contact Information

Yih-Jye Hwang (y.c.huang@luc.leidenuniv.nl)

Weekly Overview

Week 1: History of War and Peace
Week 2: Just War
Week 3: Causes of War
Week 4: Laws of War
Week 5: End of War
Week 6: Representations of War
Week 7: What is ‘Peace, Anyway?

Preparation for first session