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HIS 200 — An Introduction to Military History: From the French Revolution to the 21st Century

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 1—May 20
Time: 7:00 – 8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 14
Unit: 1
Tuition: $405
Instructor(s): Gil-li Vardi
7:00 – 8:50 pm
Apr 1—May 20
8 weeks
Drop By
Apr 14
1 Unit
Gil-li Vardi
"Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult,” wrote Carl von Clausewitz in On War (published in 1832). Clausewitz’s maxim is still painfully true. But why? In this course, we will investigate the theory and practice of war from the Napoleonic era to present-day so-called New Wars. Along the way, we will read Clausewitz and other military thinkers, and investigate how technological advances, social changes, philosophical debates, and economic pressures impacted how wars were fought during the 19th and 20th centuries. In an effort to understand the evolution of modern war, we will examine the battle of Waterloo (1815), the battle of the Marne (1914), and the German campaign in Russia (1941–45). We will explore the theory of counterinsurgency by studying French and British campaigns in Africa and the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. We will also discuss how nuclear weapons contributed to conventional wars by studying the dynamics of preventive attacks, such as Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility (1981). Finally, we will consider ways in which the Bosnian war (1992–95) may be inherently different from past wars, and how warfare may evolve in the future. During class, a mock “staff ride” will give students insights into how military practitioners prepare for battle. Lectures and discussions will help foster a deeper understanding of historic trends in modern and late-modern armed conflicts.

This is the second of two courses on military history. The first course, “An Introduction to Military History: From the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period” (Winter 2019), covered the evolution of war and warfare from antiquity to the early modern era in China, Japan, and Europe. While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Gil-li Vardi, Lecturer in History and International Relations, Stanford

Gil-li Vardi is a military historian studying the dynamics of doctrinal and operational change in military organizations. She is a nonresident fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She received a PhD in international history from the London School of Economics.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Christon I. Archer et al, World History of Warfare (ISBN 978-0-8032-1941-0)