The Political Legacies of War and Conflict

Course content

Civil wars bear multifaceted consequences for the economy, society, and individuals. Generally, insights on obvious material consequences of civil war prevail throughout the literature, whereas we know less about the societal and political consequences of war. Moreover, the literature on the consequences of civil war and conflict – e.g. terrorism – largely addresses changes on the macro-level – such as reconciliation, democratization, and state-building processes –, while neglecting important transformation processes on the micro-level.


In the past few years, however, a growing body of work is dealing with the consequences of wartime violence for individuals’ political and social behaviour and attitudes. These rather invisible consequences of war are more difficult to grasp than, for example, counting the numbers of fatalities or the decline in economic growth. Nevertheless, “insofar as civil wars have an intrinsic political dimension, it is more than plausible to think that war experiences and related psychological distress will have political consequences” (Ballcels 2012, 314).


With respect to this, the aim of the seminar is to introduce the micro- and meso-level social processes of war. It will provide an overview of the dominant theories and studies in this field of research, with a special focus on the legacy of war exposure on post-war social and political life. Special attention is devoted to the impact of war on dimensions of social cohesion and reconciliation. The course thus addresses both issues of political behaviour and transformation processes. 


While the focus of the seminar lies on former civil war countries, e.g. Sri Lanka, Columbia, Uganda, the course will also take a brief look at the potential political consequences of terrorism and conflict in Western Democracies.


Issues that will be covered in the course of the seminar:

1.       Definition and concepts in the study of Civil War

a.        The Political Psychology of War

b.        Research area and controversies


2.       Exemplary case presentations

a.        e.g. Sri Lanka, Kosovo, South Africa, etc.


3.       Psychological consequences of war

a.        Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Syndrome

b.        Posttraumatic Growth


4.       War and subjective well-being


5.       Civil War and civil society

a.        Social trust

b.        Social networks


6.       War and voting behaviour


7.       War and ethnic prejudice


8.       War and political and social tolerance


9.       Micro-level reconciliation


10.    The long-term consequences of war

  a.     e.g. impact of WWII on political and social behaviour


11.    Conflict/terrorism and political attitudes


12.    Overview over data sources


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


SRM students has priority

Learning outcome

Knowledge and understanding

Students who complete this course will be able to define civil wars and identify social and political processes related to them. They will also be able to critically evaluate scientific articles exploring the nexus between civil war and social and political circumstances.  

Moreover, at the end of the course, they should understand and critically reflect empirical studies, in order to assess their strengths and weaknesses. 



Students will be able to analyse specific cases and evaluate the empirical, concrete and complex challenges within the field of conflict research and its political and social consequences.



Students will be able to address the general problem of the political and social consequences of war and conflict. The will be able to

develop a research question and a research disposition using the prevalent concepts, theories and literature in the discipline.

The course uses a mixture of classroom teaching, small-group problem-solving, short student presentations on specific case studies.

An extensive week-by-week reading list, featuring core reading for each topic will be made available in advance of the seminar. The following list offers an illustration of some of the texts that will be used on the course:


Exemplary literature

Bellows, John und Edward Miguel 2009: War and local collective action in Sierra Leone. Journal of Public Economics 93: 1144-1157.


Blattman, Christopher 2009: From Violence to Voting: War and Political Participation in Uganda. American Political Science Review 103: 231-247.


Blattman, Christopher und Edward Miguel 2010: Civil War. Journal of Economic Literature 48: 3-57.


Calhoun, Lawrence G. and Richard G. Tedeschi 2006: The Foundations of Posttraumatic Growth: An Expanded Framework. In: Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth. Research and Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence and Erlbaum Associates Publishers. 3-23.


Grosjean, Pauline 2014: Conflict and Social and Political Preferences: Evidence from World War II and Civil Conflict in 35 European Countries. Comparative Economic Studies 56: 424-451.


Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2008: Civil Wars In: The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Charles Boix und Susan S. Stokes (Eds.). Oxford: University Press.


Ringdal, Gerd I. and Kristen Ringdal 2012: War experiences and War-related Distress in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo. In: The Aftermath of War: Experiences and Social Attitudes in the Western Balkans. Kristen Ringdal und Albert A. Simkus (Eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate.


Ringdal, Gerd I., Kristen Ringdal and Zan Strabac 2012: Changes in War-related Distress in Croatia 1996-2004. In: The Aftermath of War: Experiences and Social Attitudes in the Western Balkans. Kristen Ringdal and Albert A. Simkus (Eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate.


Rohner, Dominic, Mathias Thoerig und Fabrizio Zilibotti 2013: Seeds of Distrust: Conflict in Uganda. Journal of Economic Growth 18: 217-252.


Shemyakina, Olga N. und Anke C. Plagnol 2013: Subjective Well-Being and Armed Conflict: Evidence from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Social Indicators Research 113: 1129-1152.


Strabac, Zan und Kristen Ringdal 2008: Individual and contextual influences of war on ethnic prejudice in Croatia. The Sociological Quarterly 49: 769-796.


Wood, Elizabeth J. 2008: The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks. Annual Review of Political Science 11: 539-561.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28