Master Non-Proliferation & International Security

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  • Entry requirements
    graduates and professionals with an interest in understanding the causes, processes and effects of weapons proliferation, the evolution and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime, and the way in which proliferation influences other key issues in international relations.
  • Academic title
    MA Non-Proliferation & International Security
  • Course description
    Programme description

    - Drawing on the strengths of the Department of War Studies, this programme is multidisciplinary, utilising knowledge and tools of analysis from history, political science, the hard sciences, philosophy and sociology.

    - Through field trips and guest speakers the programme also draws on the broad range of expertise available in government and the NGO community.

    - Several internships will be linked to the MA in Non-Proliferation and International Security. The internships will be based in the Centre for Science & Security Studies at King's and other London-based NGOs working in the field including, for example, the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC)

    The development and spread of weapons technology has always been of central importance in international relations, and it remains so in today’s world with growing concern about the spread of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery to both state and non-state actors. The MA programme enables students to examine the causes, processes and effects of weapons proliferation, the evolution and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime, and the way in which proliferation influences other key issues in international relations, including the causes of war and peace, military doctrine and strategy, and the rise (and decline?) of the state as the central actor in international relations.

    Drawing on the strengths of the Department of War Studies, this programme is multidisciplinary, utilising knowledge and tools of analysis from history, political science, the hard sciences, philosophy and sociology. Through field trips and guest speakers the programme also draws on the broad range of expertise available in government and the NGO community. The programme is designed for those interested in working in the area of non-proliferation as well as other policy issues, and for those interested in further graduate study in international relations, war studies, or political science. The Non-Proliferation and International Security Programme Director is Head of the Centre for Science and Security Studies, one of the research centres in the Department of War Studies.

    The MA programme is designed as a one year full-time, or two year part-time taught programme which offers students the opportunity to engage critically with ideas in international relations and social and political thought concerned with the study of conflict and peace and their applications to empirical case-study material. The core module applies these ideas to the issue of proliferation. The various options available will allow students to broaden their programme of study by taking other contemporary or historical options offered by the department, or to focus on proliferation by taking specialised options that are being developed.

    The MA programme contains the following elements:

    - A compulsory core module, 'Non-Proliferation and International Security' (worth 40 credits)
    - Optional modules chosen from a range of possibilities (worth 80 credits in total)
    - A dissertation of 15,000 words (worth 60 credits).

    The dissertation is to be written over the summer term. You may choose your own topic but it must fall within the remit of your programme of study and must be approved by a member of staff. If you are a part-time student, you are advised to take the core module in your first year of study and write your dissertation in your second year.

    Programme format and assessment
    Continuous assessment by essay; examinations and a dissertation of 15,000 words.

    Programme modules for MA Non-Proliferation & International Security (subject to approval) 

    Clausewitz: Ideas and Legacy

    Clausewitz is regarded as the pre-eminent philosopher of war. Because of the size and intellectual depth of his oeuvre and the seemingly unfinished nature of his magnum opus ‘Vom Kriege’, however, the nature and meaning of his ideas are contested. This course will explore the development of the man and his ideas, identify the problematic areas, and study these in detail with the help of the three major English translations of On War. To get a measure of the greatness of the man’s ideas, the course will proceed to trace the reception and influence of Clausewitz’s ideas from the time of his death to the present ‘Clausewitz renaissance’. Please note that there is some commonality of subject matter with SWM122 ‘Strategy’. As a result, students who choose this option may not take the Strategy option.

    Comparative Civil Wars (40 Credits)
    Because war and Psychiatry is concerned with cultural differences across time and between nations, this module provides important contextual relevance. Drawing on a range of historical and contemporary case studies, the course provides a comparative and empirically informed examination of the origins, characteristics and dynamics of civil wars. The case studies examined include: the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Angolan Civil War (1974-2001), Liberia and Sierra Leone (1991-2001), Somalia (1990-2001) and the Balkans (1991-95). Drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies, the course provides a comparative and empirically informed examination of the origins, characteristics and dynamics of civil wars. It explores competing theories about the causes of civil wars and is concerned with the difficulties of bringing such wars to an end. Special attention is given to the role of international organisations, international law and outside military intervention in the mitigation, regulation and resolution of contemporary civil wars. The case studies examined include the Spanish civil war (1936-39), the Angolan Civil War (1974-2001), Liberia and Sierra Leone (1991-2001), Somalia (1990-1993) and the Balkans (1991-95).

    Conflict Resolution in World Politics (20 Credits)
    The course will introduce students to some of the major models and methods for the resolution of international conflicts. It will first undertake a conceptual examination of what it means to 'resolve' a conflict and will then cover key approaches to conflict resolution, including mediation/negotiation, 'track II' diplomacy and problem-solving. Questions such as the impact of asymmetries of power and the timing of mediation will be investigated. In each instance the aim will be to highlight the relationship between theory and practice and how this is manifest in particular case-studies of conflict. The aim will be to develop in students an increased capacity for critical reflection on the conventions and perspectives on conflict resolution and their application to particular cases of conflict.

    Conflict, Development and Islam in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia

    The course provides an analytical and empirically informed treatment of the linkages between conflict, development and Islam in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It explores the origins and dynamics of wars and unresolved military conflicts in the region, and examines potential new sources of violence that might emerge both in the region, and in neighbouring countries. The course also analyses the challenges of economic development and the linkages of development and security in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The course also explores the dynamics of Islam, nationalism and extremist ideologies as they develop in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the linkages between international terrorism, al Qaeda and Islam in Eurasia. Special attention is also given to the role played by the international community in addressing issue of conflict, security and development in the region.

    Deterrence in Theory and Practice
    The concept of deterrence was a cornerstone of cold war strategic studies, and its continued applicability is a matter of heated debate today. Questions raised by deterrence touch on many of the concerns motivating students of War Studies, including historical, ethical, and theoretical questions about war. This course uses deterrence as a lens to explore these larger issues. In particular, it will examine the following questions: What is deterrence, and what role has it played in the security policies of states? Has the viability of deterrence changed over time, and if so, have these changes been driven by changes in technology, by changes in the characteristics of states, or by other factors? To what extent do the theories of deterrence propounded by scholars capture the deterrent policies enacted by states? What determines the success or failure of deterrence in practice? Is deterrence an ethical strategy? The course will also expose students to various methodologies used in the social sciences, including comparative case studies, quantitative analysis and formal modelling.


    This course will examine the theory, art and practice of diplomacy, both as an instrument of foreign policy and an institution in the international system. It will analyse the way in which diplomacy, unlike most other aspects of international life, emphasises that which states have in common as well as those things which divide them. It will study diplomacy from the perspectives of politics, international law and history. In addition to this, it will look at the roles and functions of diplomacy regarding states and their policies, as well as the conduct of diplomacy in different forums and in different collective activities. The detailed substance of the course will focus inter alia on topics such as the following: diplomacy and intelligence; military diplomacy; summitry; mediation; the role of diplomacy in multilateral forums. Students will be encouraged to make use of case studies to illustrate general propositions about diplomatic theory and practice.

    Ethics in International Relations
    (20 Credits)
    This course will explore the reasons for ethics playing such a marginal role in traditional approaches to international relations. It will explore and evaluate major traditions of Political Ethics as these apply to international relations. In particular students taking this module will have an opportunity to consider the vigorous debates now taking place about the following ethical matters: intervention, secession, national self determination, sovereignty, the just war tradition in an age of 'New Wars', migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, global governance, and ethical approaches to the global environment.

    European (In)Security (20 credits)
    This course deals with the consequences of widening the security concept, the contribution of social constructivist and post-positivist approaches to security studies, and the transformation of contemporary security practices. The course focuses on the role of security policy in the construction of danger and the governance of society on the basis of unease and fear.

    European Security

    This course aims to introduce students to several analytical approaches to the study of security in Europe today. The historical background and in part socio-anthropological approach show different forms of inter-group relations that have existed, and the constructedness of European identities, whether they be religious, regional, ethnic or ‘national’. The analysis of successive structures of formal inter-group relations, which have by and by become increasingly crystallised around a state-order, is complemented by the comparative analysis of contemporary structures of policy making in three major states. To this is added an analysis of the interdependence of states and the evolution of supra-state or inter-state mechanisms (or régimes, international organisations such as NATO, the EU, the WEU and the OSCE and international norms). The focus is then on contemporary general problems of security in Europe, followed by in depth analyses, using all the analytical tools explored earlier, of present security concerns of individual states.

    Human Rights and Migration (20 credits)
    This course examines the development of migration rights as human rights in the European framework. Starting from the right of the state to control its borders and who is entitled to enter and reside on its territory, the course examines how, in the European context, migrants have acquired rights of movement and residence protected at the supra national level. Topics covered include citizenship, refugees and forced migration, family life and protection from expulsion.

    Human Rights in a World of States (20 credits)
    The aims of the course will be to introduce students to a particular way of thinking about the place of human rights in contemporary world politics, to launch an inquiry into the shortcomings of the way in which the discipline has traditionally dealt with the issue of human rights in an international context, to determine the usefulness of a human rights centred approach to the study of global politics and to explore the tension between human rights and sovereign states in the modern practices of international relations.

    International Politics of the Middle East
    The course explores the emergence and evolution of the Middle East system of states since 1945, through a framework of analysis that is partly historical and partly thematic. It covers the role of the great powers before, during, and since the Cold War, and explores the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the international politics of the Gulf. The course then surveys four main approaches to analysis of the foreign policies of Middle East states: assessing the role of state-society relations and political economy, and the impact of nationalism and of the balance of power on regional politics, alliance-building, and institutional cooperation. The politics of oil and of economic restructuring are then explored, followed by the politics of religious revival in the context of democratisation and of the military's role in the context of political change and economic transformation. This paves the way for an assessment of trends affecting peace, security, and stability in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War, and an overview of evolving US and European policies towards the region. The primary aim of the course is to provide a basic analytical understanding of political issues and historical processes in the Middle East. The secondary aim is to provide training in the critical reading of assigned texts and their use in writing.

    Nationalism and Security
    The aims of this course are to promote multidisciplinary understanding of concepts, issues and debates regarding nationalism and security and to encourage understanding of the interaction between statehood and population groups. Furthermore, the course examines the relationship between national political discourse and the peace-conflict axis and fosters conscious critical reading and discussion of issues of ethnicity, identity, statehood, self-determination and self-protection.

    Prosecuting War Crimes
    This course examines the establishment and conduct of international war crimes (including crimes against humanity) prosecutions. It evaluates the background to the emergence of war crimes as a concept in the 20th century, looking at martial, ethical and legal issues. It studies the creation of the first international tribunals following the Second World War and the issues which arose from these. The course examines the interaction between politics and law in the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the relationship of laws and rules to the social activity that is war.

    Reporting Wars
    As new information technology alters global communication the relationship between information, security and war fighting becomes increasingly important. This course analyses war reporting by drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies. It looks at the influence of political leadership, organisational factors in media structures, and the roles and norms of journalists. The course explores in depth the relationship between the military and the media and how this relationship has been affected by recent technological changes and political developments. Special attention is given to media effects like the ‘CNN-effect’, i.e. the unmediated, live diffusion of images of tension, conflict and emergencies. The case studies examined include the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War and its aftermath.

    Science, Technology and Security Policy
    What role do developments in science and technology play in national security policy? Does the development of new technologies such as the ballistic missile and the nuclear weapon transform international security and require new policies, or is the development of new technologies driven by the security problems that states face? This course investigates these questions by examining developments at the intersection of science and security. It explores how scientific advances have influenced defence policy and international security in the past as well as preparing students to analyse the effects of current and future developments. To this end, it provides a basic grounding in the science underlying key weapons systems and security technologies, examines the role of science and scientists in the policy process, and through a series of case studies, prepares students to analyse the security implications of new technologies.

    Scientific and Technical Intelligence (20 credits)
    Drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies, this course is designed to give students an understanding of the way in which scientific and technical intelligence has evolved from its origins in the Second World War, to the present day. In tracing these developments, the course will seek to explore the nature of scientific and technical intelligence, which revolves around the interaction between scientists, the scientific establishments, and the intelligence agencies. It will focus on scientific and technical intelligence both in terms of the development of intelligence technology, but also the scientific nature of the target. It will use a variety of case studies to explore and illustrate persistent issues related to the study of scientific and technical intelligence.

    Security Issues in the Soviet Successor States
    This course seeks to develop a broad understanding of security issues in the former Soviet Union (FSU). In so doing, the course will examine traditional security concerns as well as new threats that have arisen in this region. The course will approach the concept of security from a perspective wider than that of military policy, to include crime, ecological issues as well as traditional doctrinal thinking and military developments. The course will examine the Soviet approach to security, which constitutes the historical and political background for thinking about security issues in the newly independent states. It will also introduce the main theoretical models to be developed for understanding Soviet politics. The course will proceed to examine Russian security policy, and the security issues and policies adopted by the other newly independent states. The development of armed forces and civil-military relations in each region will also be examined.

    The aims of this course are to explore the nature of strategy and the manner in which it is shaped by sociopolitical influences, encourage critical engagement with the scholarly literature on the subject of strategy, foster amongst students the capacity for analysis, judgement and communication at a level commensurate with taught postgraduate study. Please note that this is not a course about the ‘mechanics of war’ and that there is minimal operational or tactical content. Nor does it embrace the methods and assumptions of traditional military history. Those who feel uncomfortable with an explicit theoretical approach to the study of war may not find it to their liking. Please note that there is some commonality of subject matter with SWM118 ‘Clausewitz: Ideas and Legacy’. As a result, students who choose this option may not take the Clausewitz option.

    The Evolution of Insurgency
    This course explains the evolution of insurgency doctrine since 1948, tracing its major development phases and concluding with contemporary international intervention forces and their revised techniques of counter-insurgency. The aim of this course is to analyse the moral and legal arguments for and against the use of political violence and explain the relationship of urbanisation and social transition to the use of political violence; It provides a social and historical context from which to understand the application and utility of insurgency doctrine during the period of the Cold War; to analyse the reasons behind the proliferation of insurgent forms after the end of the Cold War; to conceptualise emerging trends of globally organised violence after 11th September 2000; to assess the principles which underwrite the development of counter-insurgency strategy and to practice critical analysis, independent judgement, oral and written presentation skills at a level commensurate with taught postgraduate study.

    The Meaning and Experience of Imperialism
    This course considers the conceptual difficulties involved with the term ‘imperialism’ in understanding current and past global conflict. Taking an historical perspective on the evolution of western European empires, it challenges many current definitions. Though the British Empire necessarily looms large, the course takes a comparative approach to western empires since the fifteenth century, examining the changing motivation, method, and perceived purpose of expansion. In this way, it will assess in particular the relative role of military asymmetry and of coercion in global history to the present day.

    The Occupied Territories since 1967
    Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights has now persisted for over thirty-eight years, during which time the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories has grown dramatically and Israeli control over the territories has been strengthened by the use of checkpoints, bypass roads, military operations and, most recently, the construction of a “security fence”, separating Palestinians from Israel and from one another. Palestinians perceive themselves to be a society under occupation. There are different views about the causes of this occupation, and even about whether "occupation" is an appropriate word to describe the situation in these areas. This course looks at the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights from 1967 to present as a case of Military Occupation. It analyses the methods used by Israelis and Palestinians in their struggle to control these disputed lands.

    The Rise and Fall of the Cold War
    This course investigates an ‘age of global threat’ to Western values and beliefs which followed after the end of the Second World War. The focus of our enquiry is to discern the major trends and dynamics of the Cold War and to discuss the changes and continuity in the international security order during and after the end of the Cold War.

    War, Criminality and Global Politics (20 credits)
    The aim of the course is to explore the subject of responsibility in time of war. The course will first be located within the wider remit of international relations and the ethics of war. It will evaluate the significance of the subject of war crimes within a discipline that conventionally defines the subject of politics as the state. It will explore the implications of taking the individual as the primary location of responsibility when actions are undertaken in time of conflict, and will consider responses to criminality in war from the establishment of war crimes tribunals to attempts at reconciliation between affected communities.

    War, Society, and the Politics of Modernity (20 Credits)
    This course examines the roles of war in the origins of modern political regimes and their societies. The development of the modern state and the international system has been shaped powerfully by a belief in the ability to solve the problems posed by war for governments, societies, and even humanity as a whole. And yet modernity has been defined by a history of recurrent warfare between political regimes involving increasing propensities for destruction of societies and human life generally. In turn the development of modernity has generated a series of debates over the sources of the problem of war, as well as posited different political frameworks through which a solution to war has been sought. This course will trace the debate over the relationships between war, society, and humanity as it has evolved historically in philosophy as well as political and social theory. Relatedly, it will examine the relative successes and failures of different political projects for the emancipation of state, society and the species from the threat of war as they have arisen historically, from the origins of modernity to the present. A particular focus of the course will be on the development of Foucauldian approaches to these problems.

    One year FT, two years PT, September to September

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