Module specification template

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  1. Title of the module:

Insurgencies and Counter-insurgencies: The British and French experience since 1900

  1. School which will be responsible for management of the module:


  1. Start date of the module:


  1. The cohort of students (onwards) to which the module will be applicable:

War Studies and History students.

  1. The number of students expected to take the module:


  1. Modules to be withdrawn on the introduction of this proposed module and consultation with other relevant Schools and Faculties regarding the withdrawal


  1. Level of the module:


  1. The number of credits which the module represents


  1. Which term(s) the module is to be taught in (or other teaching pattern):

In either Autumn Term (Term 1) or Spring Term (Term 2) depending on other teaching constraints. If module is taught in the Autumn term exam preparation sessions will be held in the Spring/Summer term.

  1. Prerequisite and co-requisite modules:

No prerequisites or co-requisites.

  1. The programme(s) of study to which the module contributes:

War Studies and Single and Joint Honours History degrees.

  1. The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes:

1. To introduce students to the historiography and history of the British and French experiences of insurgencies and counter-insurgencies from the South African War to current operations in Afghanistan (School of History, Learning Outcomes, A, B and C).

2. To encourage students to develop their critical and analytical skills, through a comparison of a wide range of conflicts. (School of History, Learning Outcomes B and C).

3. To introduce students to the history and historiography of British and French decolonisation in a comparative framework.

  1. The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes:

1. To develop a critical understanding of different historical approaches and degrees of bias as well as of the methodological complexities in the historical record itself (School of History, Learning Outcomes A and B)

2. To further develop analytical and reflective skills and the ability to express complex ideas and arguments orally and in writing, skills which can be transferred to other areas of study and employment (School of History, Learning Outcomes A and B)

3. To further develop communication, presentation and information technology skills (School of History, Learning Outcome D)

  1. A synopsis of the curriculum:

The British and French armies spent a considerable period of the twentieth and first decade of the twenty-first centuries involved in counter-insurgency operations. While the French had a coherent counter-insurgency strategy in place from the 1880s and relied heavily on the famed Foreign Legion and other Colonial Army units for much of its counter-insurgency work, the British were reluctant to see counter-insurgencies as their main business. In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, the notorious ‘Black and Tans’; essentially auxiliary police, were formed for use in Ireland in 1920-21 and then, in the early 1920s, in the Middle East much counter-insurgency work was entrusted to the Royal Air Force. The standard works on British counter-insurgency then suggest a more thoughtful approach based on minimum force coming into operation after the Second World War, often summarised by the phrase, ‘hearts and minds’, which was formerly enshrined in army doctrine in the early 1990s. British approaches in Kenya and Malaya are then often compared favourably to the French experience in Algeria, where the process of decolonisation was much more unpleasant than in most of the British colonies. However, recent works, notably those by David Anderson, Caroline Elkins and David French have queried this approach and have noted that the new ‘hearts and minds’ approach existed uncomfortably alongside the older doctrine of ‘butcher and bolt’ which had its origins in the North West Frontier of India in the 1890s. More recent campaigns, in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan (all areas, incidentally, in which the British Army was involved in counter-insurgency campaigns in 1920!) raise questions about the media portrayal and public accountability of the army, as does the recent release of records concerning Kenya. In addition to examining the role of the British and French armies themselves much attention will obviously be paid to the motivation and strategies of insurgents. Seminars will then consider, amongst other topics, the role of locally raised police and military forces (which were often the most likely perpetrators of atrocities), civil-military relationships and the differing legal frameworks.

  1. Indicative Reading List

Small Wars and Insurgencies – Frank Cass Journal

David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged, Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the end of Empire (2005)

D. M. Anderson and David Killingray (eds.), Policing and Decolonisation. Politics, nationalism and the police, 1917-1965 (1992).

I. F. W. Beckett, Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and their opponents since 1750 (2001, new edition due in 2012)

Timothy Benbow and Rod Thornton (eds.), Dimensions of Counter-insurgency. Applying experience to practice (2008).

Anthony Clayton, The Wars of French Decolonisation (1994)

Jacques Dalloz, The War in Indochina (1990)

Caroline Elkins, Britain’s Gulag. The brutal end of Empire in Kenya (2005)

David French, The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-67 (2011)

Desmond Hamill, Pig in the Middle: The Army in Northern Ireland, 1969-85 (1986)

Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence 1919-21 (2002)

Alastair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-62 (1987)

Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars (2011)

D. M. Leeson, The Black & Tans: British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence (2011)

T. R. Mockaitis, British Counterinsurgency, 1919-60 (1990)

Douglas Porch, The Conquest of the Sahara (1986)

Charles Townshend, Britain’s Civil Wars (1991)

  1. Learning and Teaching Methods, including the nature and number of contact hours and the total study hours which will be expected of students, and how these relate to achievement of the intended learning outcomes

Hours of study: 20 hours per week (300 hours total).

Contact hours: 10 lectures and 10 two-hour seminars (3 hours per week)

Seminar groups will be kept to a maximum of 18 students

The module will be taught through seminars and lectures, and will include one to one meetings with students to discuss their essays. There will also be film screenings of works central to this module, including ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’. The lectures will attempt to distil essential information and to highlight key historiographical debates which should stimulate student interest in further reading.
Some key reading will be downloadable from Moodle and students are expected to use their bibliographical and library skills to locate other readings, which will be outlined in the module handbook. Contemporary newspaper reports will be used in considering recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having carefully analysed and weighed these materials, students are expected to contribute to seminar discussions. Often, primary materials are introduced at the seminar, and students are asked to relate them to their assigned readings. Similarly, the use of a variety of audio-visual materials offers students the opportunity to engage in a critical examination of a range of evidence. Seminars provide students with an open forum to communicate new and complex ideas and encourage critical thinking. The seminars and lectures will contribute especially to the learning outcomes 5c (1 and 3), 5d (1-4).

  1. Assessment methods and how these relate to testing achievement of the intended learning outcomes

The module will be examined by coursework (40%) and a 2-hour written exam (60%).

As coursework, students will write two essays of approximately 2,500 words each. They will also write a shorter, examination type essay of approximately 800 words and give an oral presentation. The coursework mark will be made up in this way: Essay 1: 30%; Essay 2: 30%; Short essay: 20%; Oral presentation: 20%.

In the summer term students will sit a two-hour examination paper, which will count for 60% of a student’s final mark on the module.

The essay requirement demands that a student consider the evidence carefully, create a coherent structure for their arguments and present them in a concise and illuminating way. (S of H Learning Outcomes 1-4, B 1-4, C 1-3).

Oral presentations demand that a student consider how to present information clearly, precisely and effectively to a group. Presentations reveal whether a student has understood his/her task by allowing him/her to face the questions of the seminar leader and the rest of the class. The audience must listen carefully if they are to understand the paper and comment on it intelligently and lucidly. (S of H D Transferable Skills 1).

The examination will test the ability of students to create a disciplined argument from their knowledge under controlled conditions. It will demand the ability to consider and deploy evidence and debate within a strictly limited time period. (S of H, Learning Outcomes, A4, B2, 4, C2).
The examination will be double-marked; the essays will be moderated in accordance with Faculty conventions.

  1. Implications for learning resources, including staff, library, IT and space:

There are no major implications. Some additional books for the library will need to be ordered and a subscription taken out to Small Wars and Insurgencies. This module will be taught by Dr. Timothy Bowman, possibly with Professor Ian Beckett.

  1. The School recognises and has embedded the expectations of current disability equality legislation, and supports students with a declared disability or special educational need in its teaching. Within this module we will make reasonable adjustments wherever necessary, including additional or substitute materials, teaching modes or assessment methods for students who have declared and discussed their learning support needs. Arrangements for students with declared disabilities will be made on an individual basis, in consultation with the University’s disability/dyslexia support service, and specialist support will be provided where needed.


Statement by the School Director of Learning and Teaching/School Director of Graduate Studies (as appropriate): "I confirm I have been consulted on the above module proposal and have given advice on the correct procedures and required content of module proposals"


Director of Learning and Teaching/Director of Graduate Studies (delete as applicable)


Print Name



Statement by the Head of School: "I confirm that the School has approved the introduction of the module and, where the module is proposed by School staff, will be responsible for its resourcing"


Head of School


Print Name



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