Armed conflict has always been the most flagrant form of confrontation between groups of humans. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War there has been a shift away from inter-state wars and civil wars, perhaps more precisely, low intensity armed conflicts, have become the most common forms of organised violence. This shift has important implications on the forms of war fighting but, more importantly, on how armed conflicts are managed, how societies transform during and after war. It also provides a new challenge to the international community that it is only learning to tackle. 

While civil wars invariably have various root causes that are unique to them, one common thread is the weakening of the nation state and its subsequent inability to provide  its most basic function: security. This lack of security in many cases provides the space and the incentive for non-state actors to challenge the state and begin civil war.

The course aims at reviewing the various sources and explanations of civil wars, their dynamics and the prospects of settlement. It also historicises the phenomenon, along with state formation in various contexts.