GV4G4      Half Unit
Comparative Conflict Analysis

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof James Hughes and Dr William Kissane


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Conflict Studies. This course is not available as an outside option.

Compulsory core course for, and entry restricted to, MSc Conflict Studies students only. It is capped at 4 groups.

Course content

What is intra-state conflict? How should we investigate and measure political violence? What causes national and ethnic conflict and other forms of political violence and why does it take particular forms? What are the most effective means of conflict resolution? This course will introduce students to the core theoretical debates on intra-state conflict and political violence by analysing the major research in the field. The course is structured around three categories of analysis and explanation: causation, dynamics and outcomes. Central themes include: the nature of ethnic conflict, the role of legitimacy in political violence, contentious politics and control regimes; the causes, dynamics and consequences of civil war; self-determination and secession; top-down and bottom-up methods for conflict management and reconciliation, including external intervention, the role of civil society, and institutional designs. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with the main methodological approaches to the study of conflict, including critical case studies, process tracing, small n and large n research, which will enhance their skills for the dissertation. In the weekly lectures and seminars the themes will be explored through a mix of theory-based readings and works which provide in-depth case studies.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours in the Michaelmas Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus seminars and lectures.There will be a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students are required to complete one formative essay of 2,000 words.

Indicative reading

Charles Tilly (2003) The Politics of Collective Violence, Cambridge: CUP;

Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis eds (2005), Understanding Civil War, The World Bank, Vols 1-2;

Stathis N. Kalyvas (2006) The Logic of Violence in Civil War, Cambridge, CUP;

Philip G. Roeder, and Donald Rothchild (2005) Sustainable Peace. Power and Democracy after Civil Wars, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2005;

Arend Lijphart (2008) Thinking about Democracy: Power Sharing and Majority Rule in Theory and Practice. Abingdon: Routledge;

Sid Noel ed (2005) From Power-Sharing to Democracy. Post-Conflict Institutions in Ethnically Divided Societies. London: McGill-Queens University Press;

Hurst Hannum Autonomy (2011 Rev edn). Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press;

James Fearon and David Laitin (2003) ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency and Civil War’, American Political Science Review, 97, 1:. 75-90;

David Laitin (2007). Nations, Sates and Violence. Oxford, OUP;

Paul Collier (2009) War, Guns & Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places New York: Harper;

Bill Kissane (2016). Nations Torn Asunder: the Challenge of Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press;

Mats Berdal and David Malone eds (2000) Greed and Grievance. Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, Rienner;

Karen Ballentine and Jake Sherman (2003) The Political Economy of Armed Conflict. Beyond Greed and Grievance, Rienner;

Donald Horowitz (1985) Ethnic Groups in Conflict, Berkeley, University of California Press;

James Hughes (2007) Chechnya. From Nationalism to Jihad, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press;

I. Lustick (1993). Unsettled states, disputed lands : Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press;

Ashutosh Varshney (2003) Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India New Haven: Yale University Press;

Jeremy Weinstein (2006) Inside Rebellion: the Politics of Insurgent Violence Cambridge: CUP;

Marianne Heiberg, Brendan O’Leary and John Tirman eds (2007). Terror, Insurgency and the State: Ending Protracted Conflicts. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

James Hughes and Denisa Kostovicova eds (2018). Rethinking Reconciliation and Transitional Justice after Conflict. Abingdon: Routledge.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the January exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 23
Merit 67.6
Pass 8.6
Fail 0.7

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2020/21: 49

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication