Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Reduced inequalities Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide in-depth knowledge of the main theories on the relationships between violence and political order that have emerged in the social sciences. At the end of the course the student is able to: a) critically examine the classical literature on the theme; b) mastering contemporary literature; c) analyze and comment on the dynamics of political development and its relationship with violence in the various phases of human history; d) apply the research methods most commonly used in the study of violence and political development.

Course contents

The course aims to discuss the so-called "riddle of war" through a long-term analysis of collective violence in different geographical areas. The first section explores development of political space in the transition between nomadic communities and sedentary communities, the forms of political communities (cities, proto-states, empires) in the antiquity and the role of violence in the establishment and functioning of such political and social orders. The second section will deal with the origins of modern states in Europe, the reasons for the birth of European empires and the forms of governance of the latter. The third section focuses the debate on contemporary transformations of political authority in the contemporary age focusing on alternative forms to the nation-state, to the theses related to neo-medievalism and to studies on the governance of insurgent groups.

The course is organised into lectures and seminars, according to the logic of the inverted classroom. Lectures (16 hours) aim to introduce students to the core tenets of the discipline. Seminars (12 hours) aim to provide occasions for in-depth discussions of class materials and exercises. Students attend 8 lectures on theoretical interpretations. In the seminar section, students are divided into two groups, each of which must attend 6 seminars. The activation of online classes will depend on the evolution of the pandemic situation.

Students are invited to carefully read the assigned material before the session and - in the case of seminars - active participation will also be required through presentations of existing scholarship and case studies. The recommended readings will provide fuller treatment of the topics for students interested in pursuing particular avenues of study or research.


1. Introduzione al corso: guerra e configurazioni dell'autorità politica (lezione)

§ Gat, A. (2006), War in Human Civilization, Oxford University Press, Preface

§ Pinker, S. “The surprising decline in violence”, Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence/transcript

2. La nascita dello “spazio umano” e violenza nello “stato di natura” (lezione)

§ Gat, A. (2006), War in Human Civilization, capp. 1-3 e 7

Letture consigliate

§ Christian, D. (2011). Maps of time: An introduction to big history. University of California Press, cap. 7*.

§ Mellars, P. (2006). Why did modern human populations disperse from Africa ca. 60,000 years ago? A new model. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(25), 9381-9386. Sul sito: http://www.pnas.org/content/103/25/9381

3. Confinare e organizzare lo “spazio umano”: proto-stati e violenza (lezione)

§ Gat, A. (2006), War in Human Civilization, capp. 8-10*

§ Bogaard, A. (2015), “Communities”, in The Cambridge World History, Volume II: A World with Agriculture, 12000 BC – 500 CE. Cambridge University Press, cap. 5.

§ Scott J.C. (2017). Against the Grain. A Deep History of Earlier States. cap. 2.

Letture consigliate

§ Spencer, C. S. (2010). Territorial expansion and primary state formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(16), 7119-7126

§ Algaze, G. (2001). Initial social complexity in southwestern Asia: the Mesopotamian advantage. Current Anthropology, 42(2), 199-233

4. Dal feudalesimo allo stato moderno (lezione)

§ Gat, A. (2006), War in Human Civilization, cap. 11

Letture consigliate:

§ Poggi, G. (1990), Lo Stato, Il Mulino, cap. 3

§ Tilly, C. (1984), ‘Sulla formazione dello stato in Europa. Riflessioni introduttive’, in Tilly, C. (a cura di) La formazione degli stati nazionali nell’Europa occidentale, Il Mulino, cap. 1

5. Imperi e violenza collettiva (lezione)

§ Gat, A. (2006), War in Human Civilization, capp. 13 e 14

§ Rosenstein, N. (2015), War, State Formation, and the Evolution of Military Institutions in Ancient China and Rome, in Morris, I. e Scheidel, W. (a cura di), Rome and China Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, Oxford University Press, cap. 2*

§ Barkey, K., & Gavrilis, G. (2016). The Ottoman millet system: Non-territorial autonomy and its contemporary legacy. Ethnopolitics, 15(1), 24-42

6. Le guerre civili

§ Sambanis, N. (2004). What is civil war? Conceptual and empirical complexities of an operational definition. Journal of conflict resolution, 48(6), 814-858

§ Allansson, Marie, Erik Melander and Lotta Themnér, 2017. Organized violence, 1989-2016. Journal of Peace Research. 54(4), 574-587

7. Riorganizzare lo spazio politico: la fine dello Stato? (lezione)

§ Arjona, A. (2014). Wartime institutions: a research agenda. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 58(8), 1360-1389

§ Boege, V., Brown, A., Clements, K., & Nolan, A. (2008). On hybrid political orders and emerging states: state formation in the context of ‘fragility’. Sul sito: http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2011/2595/pdf/boege_etal_handbook.pdf

§ Lee, M. M., Walter‐Drop, G., & Wiesel, J. (2014). Taking the state (back) out? Statehood and the delivery of collective goods. Governance, 27(4), 635-654.

Letture consigliate:

§ Zielonka, J. (2007). Europe as empire: The nature of the enlarged European Union. Oxford University Press

8. Attori esterni e ordini politici (lezione)

§ Lee, M. M. (2018). The international politics of incomplete sovereignty: How hostile neighbors weaken the state. International Organization, 72(2), 283-315.

§ Lange, M. K. (2004). British colonial legacies and political development. World development, 32(6), 905-922

Letture consigliate:

§ Barnett, M., & Zürcher, C. (2009). The peacebuilder’s contract: How external statebuilding reinforces weak statehood. In The dilemmas of statebuilding (pp. 37-66). Routledge

Seminario 9A/B: Proto-state making

§ North, D., Wallis, J. e Weingast, B. (2009), Violence and Social Orders. Cambridge University Press, cap. 2 “The Natural State”*.

§ Mayshar J. et al. (2018), The Emergence of Hierarchies and States: Productivity vs.

Appropriability, Working Paper, sul sito:


§ Olson, M. (1993). Dictatorship, democracy, and development. American political science review, 87(3), 567-576.

§ Extra: Boix, C. (2015). Political Order and Inequality. Their Foundations and Their Consequences for Human Welfare. Cambridge University Press, cap. 1 “Tabula Rasa”.

Seminario 10A/B: La violenza nella formazione dello stato moderno

§ Kiser, E., & Linton, A. (2002). The hinges of history: State-making and revolt in early modern France. American Sociological Review, 67(6), 889-910

§ Mathis, S. M. (2013). From warlords to freedom fighters: Political violence and state formation in Umbumbulu, South Africa. African Affairs, 112(448), 421-439

§ Blaydes, L., & Paik, C. (2016). The impact of Holy Land Crusades on state formation: war mobilization, trade integration, and political development in medieval Europe. International Organization, 70(3), 551-586

Seminario 11A/B: Violenza e costruzione degli imperi europei

§ Parker, G. (1976). The" Military Revolution," 1560-1660--a Myth?. The Journal of Modern History, 48(2), 196-214

§ Falola, T. (2009). Colonialism and violence in Nigeria. Indiana University Press, cap. 1*

§ Luttikhuis, B., & Moses, A. D. (2012). Mass violence and the end of the Dutch colonial empire in Indonesia. Journal of Genocide Research, 14(3-4), 257-276

Letture consigliate:

§ Satya, P. (2018), Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution, Stanford University Press, Part 1 (capp. 1-4)

Seminario 12A/B: il dibattito sulle “nuove guerre”

§ Kaldor, M. (2013). In defence of new wars. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 2(1)

§ Kalyvas, S. N. (2001). “New” and “old” civil wars: a valid distinction?. World politics, 54(1), 99-118

§ Malantowicz, A. (2013). Civil war in Syria and the new wars debate. Amsterdam LF, 5, 52

Seminario 13C/D: "Identità" e guerre civili

§ Cederman, L. E., Weidmann, N. B., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2011). Horizontal inequalities and ethnonationalist civil war: A global comparison. American Political Science Review, 105(3), 478-495

§ Brubaker, R., & Laitin, D. D. (1998). Ethnic and nationalist violence. Annual Review of sociology, 24(1), 423-452

§ Posen, B. R. (1993). Nationalism, the mass army, and military power. International security, 18(2), 80-124

Seminario 14C/D: Rebel governance

§ Mampilly, Z. (2012). Rebel rulers: Insurgent governance and civilian life during war. Cornell University Press, capp. 2-5*.

§ Malejacq, R. (2016). Warlords, intervention, and state consolidation: A typology of political orders in weak and failed states. Security Studies, 25(1), 85-110

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars

Assessment methods

Students who DO NOT regularly attend classes

§ Midterm take-home exam (40 % of the final grade)

§ Class presentation and participation (30 % of the final grade)

§ Article review (1000 words 30% of the final grade). The article to be reviewed will be agreed with the instructor.

Students who DO NOT regularly attend classes will be assessed through a final take-home written exam. The exam will be composed by 3 questions and students will have to provide answers in the range of 1000 words each. Exams will be made available on Esami OnLine (EOL) 4 days before the exam dates (“appelli”) as posted on AlmaEsami and will be due on exam date by noon.

Criteria for evaluation of the written exam:

  • discussion of the concepts and theories, with reference to debate in the readings.
  • empirical examples coherent with the arguments presented
  • well-structured text, composed by an introduction providing a brief overview of the topic, and descriptions of how the essay will unfold; a main body of the paper: based on a structured discussion of the phenomena and related concepts and a a short conclusion summing up the paper

Grading Policy

The final overall grade will be in the range 18-30:

  • 30 cum laude (outstanding, sure grasp of all the material and many interesting insights)
  • 28-30 (excellent, sure grasp of all the material and some interesting insights)
  • 26-27 (very good, competent grasp of all the material)
  • 24-25 (good, competent grasp of some the material)
  • 21-23 (satisfactory, partial grasp of the material)
  • 18-20 (pass, barely sufficient grasp of the material)
  • 17 or below (fail, insufficient grasp of the material)


Teaching tools

Slides and class material uploaded on virtuale.unibo.it

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Niccolò Moro

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