Teaching Assistants

  • TA: Mark Reedy
    (Kerr 663; OH: T, 3-5pm)
  • TA: Joseph Bonneau
    (Kerr 677; OH: M, 3-5pm)

Course details

  • T,TH
  • January 10–March 18, 2022
  • 1:40PM-3:00 PM
  • Olson Hall 206

What is this course about?

This is an undergraduate course on the study of civil wars, political violence, and other forms of armed conflict. Each week will be organized around a different topic related to the study of civil wars, including why civil wars break out, what tactics insurgents and states use during them, what happens when third-parties intervene, whether negotiations can effectively end wars, and other key questions in the conflict literature.

Note: the course catalog has an antiquated description of the class.

What will we read/do in this course?

Most of what we read in this course will cover civil wars and political violence as general phenomena (e.g., looking across the historical record of civil wars, why do they tend to emerge in some places but not others?). But we will also read case studies of conflicts I think are especially interesting.

All of the readings in this class are free. You will be able to download them from this Dropbox folder.

In addition to reading, we will also spend a significant amount of time in this class working with data on political violence, through homework. We will explore general patterns and trends, think about how to measure different concepts related to political violence, and see to what extent different theories of political violence are supported by evidence. Note: the class assumes no prior experience with data but you will need regular access to a computer.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify structural and historical drivers of violence
  2. Conceptualize armed conflict as a strategic process involving states, civilians, and armed groups
  3. Explore, analyze, and interpret data bearing on political violence

Google Sheets

All homeworks requiring data will be done in Google Sheets or Excel. Google Sheets is free to use with a Google account, and I will do all data analysis tutorials in Google Sheets. However, you can easily follow along in Excel if that’s what you prefer.

Warning on Violent/Disturbing Content

This course will involve spending a significant amount of time covering violent and/or disturbing material, which can be difficult to read about or watch. I will do my best to flag especially graphic content but ask that you please consider this in deciding whether to take the course.


You should listen to podcasts, although I won’t grade you on it. Below are some of my favorite podcasts that frequently discuss conflict and political violence:

How can I get help or get in contact with the instructors?

Ask for help on Slack. We have a class Slack chanel where anyone in the class can ask questions and anyone can answer. Ask questions about data (e.g., “how do I summarize multiple variables at once?”) or class logistics (e.g., “I can’t find the reading”) in the class Slack. The TA and I will monitor Slack regularly, and you should all do so as well. You’ll have similar questions as your peers, and you’ll likely be able to answer other peoples’ questions too.

Go to Office Hours. The TA’s office hours and my office hours are available on the home page and at the top of this page.

If you would like to speak with me about something that only pertains to you (e.g., your grades, academic advice), you can sign up for my office hours on Calendly. If there’s a time-sensitive issue you can email me. Everything else goes in the Slack so that others can see and access help.

Are lectures recorded?

Class lectures are not recorded. Students are not allowed to record class lecture with video or audio. The only exception is students with registered SDC accommodations.

Honor Code

Be nice. Don’t cheat. The Code of Academic Conduct is in effect in this class and all others at the University. I will treat violations seriously. If you have doubts, it is your responsibility to ask about the Code’s application.

Counseling & Psychiatry Services

Life at Davis can be complicated and challenging. You might feel overwhelmed, experience anxiety or depression, or struggle with relationships or family responsibilities. UC Davis Counseling Services provide confidential support for students who are struggling with mental health and emotional challenges. Please do not hesitate to contact them for assistance—getting help is a smart and good thing to do.

Assignments and grades

You can find descriptions for all the assignments and assignment policies on the assignments page.

Assignment Percent
Homeworks (8) 50%
Midterm Exam 25%
Final Exam 25%
Total 100%
Grade Range Grade Range
A 93–100% C 73–76%
A− 90–92% C− 70–72%
B+ 87–89% D+ 67–69%
B 83–86% D 63–66%
B− 80–82% D− 60–62%
C+ 77–79% F < 60%

Crazy moments in IR

Once you have read this entire syllabus and the assignments page, I want you to find an image or screenshot of text from a “crazy moment” in international relations / world events / world history (inspired by this Twitter account on American politics). Almost anything counts as long as the event: 1) takes place outside the US or 2) if it involves the US, concerns American foreign policy. Post it to the Slack by January 20th and I’ll round up your final grade to the nearest percentage point.

Bolivian president Evo Morales gifts the pope a ‘hammer and sickle’ cross (2014)