Course Syllabus When war comes to the city: Urban wars and urban warfare

Course Code:
Valid from Semester:
Education Cycle:
Advanced level
7.5 Higher education credit
Grading Scale:
Fail, Pass, Pass with Distinction
Main Field of Study:
War Studies
Department of War Studies and Military History
War Studies
Language of Instruction:
The education is partially in English
Decided by:
The Research and Education Board’s Course Syllabus Committee at the Swedish Defence University
Decision date:

Entry Requirements

Officer's degree or bachelor's degree of 180 credits, of which 90 credits in War Studies or equivalent subject.

Course Content and Structure

The course aims to support and challenge the student to build extensive and deep knowledge of urban warfare and urban warfare, its history and contemporary features and consequences. The focus of the course is on the mutual relationship between cities and war, as well as how these phenomena have shaped each other throughout history, and in our time shape each other. Based on current research in the field and in military thinking about cities and wars, the course addresses the following central issues: Can urban warfare today be seen as something new, given the long history of war in and against cities? How is it that cities often become targets in wars and conflicts? What are the characteristics of contemporary urban warfare? How do military organizations produce knowledge about the city as an operating environment? What consequences can war in and against cities have in the short and long term, not least for the civilian population? Can you kill a city?
Based on the above questions, and through lectures, self-study and compulsory seminars, the student generates knowledge of theoretical approaches and premises for studies of contemporary urban warfare and urban warfare. During the course, special emphasis is placed on dialogue and active learning, where the student develops his ability to analyze the course's issues based on consciously chosen theoretical approaches and premises.

Intended Learning Outcomes

After completing course the student should be able to:
Knowledge and understanding
• Explain how the political, social, material and symbolic dimensions of the urban shape urban warfare and urban wars.
Skills and Abilities
• Critically evaluate key arguments, premises and theoretical approaches in current research on urban warfare and urban warfare.
Judgment and approach

• Independently analyze and problematize historical and contemporary examples of urban wars and urban warfare based on theoretical approaches and relevant empirical data.


Scope: 7.5 Higher education credit


Grading is done through a three-point grading scale: Fail (U), Pass (G) and Pass with Distinction (VG).
For the grade passed (G), a passed grade is required for all written assignments, as well as active and constructive participation in compulsory seminars.
For the grade Pass with Distinction (VG), in addition to the requirements for the grade Pass, well pass with at least two of three of the written assignments.
Grading criteria are reported at the latest at the start of the course.

Restrictions in Number of Examinations

There is no limit on the total number of examination opportunities.

Restrictions Concerning Degree

The course cannot be included in a degree with another course whose content fully or partially corresponds to the content of this course.

Transitional Provisions

When the course is no longer given or when the course content has changed substantially, the student has the right to be examined once per semester during a three-term period in accordance with this syllabus.


If a student has a decision from the Swedish Defence University on educational support due to disability, the examiner may decide on alternative forms of examination for the student.
Course evaluation is carried out after completion of the course through the course convener and represents the basis for any changes to the course.

Reading List When war comes to the city: Urban wars and urban warfare

Course Code:

Course Literature: When war comes to the city

Prescribed literature
Baillie, Britt (2013) Capturing Facades in ‘Conflict-Time’: Structural Violence and the (Re)construction of Vukovar’s Churces. Space and Polity 17 (3): 300–319 (20 p.).
Bevan, Robert (2016) The Destruction of Memory. Architecture at War. London: Reaktion Books. Kapitel 1, 2 och 3 (109 p.).
Bollens, Scott (2013) Bounding cities as a means of managing conflict: Sarajevo, Beirut and Jerusalem. Peacebuilding 1 (2): 186–206 (21 p.).
Coward, Martin (2006) Against Anthropocentrism: The Destruction of the Built Environment as a Distinct Form of Political Violence. Review of International Studies 32 (3): 419–437 (19 p.).
Danielsson, Anna (2022) Producing the military urban(s): Interoperability, space-making, and epistemic distinctions between military services in urban operations. Accepted for publication in Political Geography (10 p.).
Evans, Michael (2016) Future war in cities: Urbanization’s challenge to security studies in the 21st century. International Review of the Red Cross 98 (1): 37–51 (15 p.).
Fregonese, Sara (2019) War and the city: urban geopolitics in Lebanon. London: I.B. Tauris (187 sidor).
Graham, Stephen (2005) Remember Fallujah: demonising place, constructing atrocity. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 23: 1–10 (10 p.).
Graham, Stephen (2009) Cities as Battlespace: The New Military Urbanism. Global Security Studies 13 (4): 383–402 (20 p.).
Gregory, Derek (2011) Doors into Nowhere: Dead Cities and the Natural History of Destruction. In Peter Meusburger, Michael Heffernan, och Edgar Wunder (red.) Cultural Memories. The Geographical Point of View, 249–283. Dordrecht: Springer (35 p.).
Hills, Alice (2004) Future War in Cities: Rethinking a Liberal Dilemma. London: Routledge. Kapitel 1, 8 och 9 (76 p.).
Kilcullen, David (2013) Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla. London: Hurst & Company. Kapitel 1 och kapitel 2 (112 p.).

King, Anthony (2021) Urban Warfare in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Polity Press. Kapitel 1, 2, 4 och 6 (75 p.).
King, Anthony (2022) Will inter-state war take place in cities? Journal of Strategic Studies 45 (1): 69–95 (27 p.).
Ljungkvist, Kristin (2021) Toward an Urban Security Research Agenda in IR. Journal of Global Security Studies 6 (2): 1–17 (17 p.).
Nitsan, Alon (2018) Operational challenges in ground operations in urban areas: An IDF perspective. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 51 (3): 737–762 (26 p.).
Zehfuss, Maja (2011) Targeting: Precision and the production of ethics. European Journal of International Relations 17 (3): 543–566 (24 p.).