Understanding War and Peace is an international relations textbook outstanding in content and unique in form.
Finding Good Course Readings is Difficult
International relations instructors face similar roadblocks in finding appropriate and useful readings for their undergraduate classes, especially upper level classes. Scholarly articles are too dry and methodologically sophisticated for undergraduates. Upper level textbooks are few, are sometimes narrower in intellectual outlook, and do not always account for the field’s latest research advances. Literature reviews work for graduate students, but not undergraduates. Edited volumes often contain essays that are not written with undergraduates in mind, and may be outdated. Scholarly monographs are often too long to work efficiently for an undergraduate course syllabus.
Another problem is textbook cost. Since 1996, the real costs of college textbooks have skyrocketed by 90%, accounting for inflation. Even worse, students sometimes are required to buy an entire textbook, and then asked to read only a portion of the book, making the $100 or more sticker price of a textbook even more outrageous.
Understanding War and Peace: Great Content
Understanding War and Peace solves all of these problems. Most importantly, it contains the highest quality undergraduate-appropriate essays on the international relations textbook market. Each chapter is a new essay written by a leading scholar, presenting the critical concepts and theories of the chapter topic, accounting for the latest scholarly advances. Each chapter is written for an undergraduate audience. Chapters are clearly written, avoid dry literature reviews, make no assumptions about the reader’s methodological background, focus on key concepts, and illustrate ideas with plentiful historical examples and contemporary policy references. The chapters are direct and transparent about learning goals, providing concise summaries, key terms, and discussion questions.
Each chapter is efficient and flexible. A topic that a lecturer might cover in one or two classes is concisely and comprehensively covered in the 15,000 words per chapter. One important innovation is that each chapter itself contains three modules, allowing lectures flexibility in assigning exactly the course content appropriate for her students. There is a main section of about 10,000-11,000 words, covering the essential conceptual topics of the chapter. Next, there is a case study of 2,000-3,000 words, applying some of the critical ideas developed in the main chapter module to a critical historical episode, such as World War I, World War II in the Pacific, the Iraq War, the Syrian Civil War, and others. Students love this kind of deep dive into a specific case, and an extended, concrete application of concepts greatly advances student comprehension of concepts.
Understanding War and Peace: A Unique Approach to Introducing Quantitative Approaches
The third module within each chapter is truly innovative. Many international relations instructors employ quantitative methods in their own research, and wish to demonstrate to students the utility of the quantitative approach. However, most instructors cannot assume that their students have methodological training, and instructors prefer not to take time in their international relations courses to teach methodology. This of course makes it difficult for instructors to assign published quantitative scholarship.
Each chapter’s third module solve this problem. The module is a 1,000 word summary of a previously published quantitative study addressing one of the topics broached in the chapter. The summary does not presume any methodological background, and presents a highly structured and approachable description of the study, explaining the study’s research question, the theory and hypotheses tested, the data analyzed, the independent and dependent variables employed, and the main results. There is no discussion of statistical methodology or presentation of coefficient tables. This is a unique approach that enables instructors to describe efficiently to an untrained student how scholars employ quantitative methods to shed light on a critical question presented in the chapter.
Each chapter also contains additional pedagogical tools, including discussion questions, key terms (each key term is internally linked to the location in the chapter where it is first mentioned), and suggested additional readings.
Understanding War and Peace: Keeping Textbook Prices Down
What makes Understanding War and Peace truly different from every other international relations textbook is that students buy each chapter separately, as an e-book on amazon.com. This means that students only need to purchase those chapters that the instructor assigns. No longer need a student pay $100 for a textbook, only to learn that she has been assigned to read only 30% of its pages. Further, each chapter in Understanding War and Peace is just $2.99, the cost of a large cup of coffee. Understanding War and Peace keeps textbook prices down.
Lastly, students love the electronic book format. It is convenient, as students can do their assigned readings on their laptops, Kindle e-readers, tablets, cellphones, or desktop computers. Students don’t have to carry around or keep track of bulky books. And, electronic books are of course paperless, making them more environmentally friendly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are any chapters dependent on any other chapters, substantively? That is, is it the case that students might not make sense of a particular chapter if they haven’t read another chapter first?
Answer: No, all of the chapters are substantively independent of each other. Any single chapter or combination of chapters can be successfully assigned.
Question: How do I read an e-book?
Answer: You can read an e-book on a computer, tablet, cell phone, or e-book reader. You can download a free e-book reader app here.
Question: What are some other special functions of the e-book format?
Answer: The reader can search for terms in the text. The reader can click a word or phrase in the “key terms” listed at the end of the chapter, and will be taken to the place in the chapter where that term is defined. Each chapter also has a clickable table of contents.
Question: If I pay for a chapter, can I then distribute the chapter to my friends, so they can read the chapter without paying for it?
Answer: No. The chapters are all copyrighted, and sharing chapters to others without the consent of the chapter authors may violate US copyright laws. If such sharing occurs outside the US, it may violate the copyright laws of other nations.
Question: I am a lecturer, and would like to get a free copy of the book. How can I do that?
Answer: Please fill out this online form, and we will gladly send you a free copy.
Question: Is Understanding War and Peace available for purchase as a regular, non-electronic book?
Answer: No, it is only available as an e-book.