Sandhurst Trends in International             Conflict Series Symposium 1

Questions of interest include:

  • How have different military doctrines made sense of and conceptualised the ‘people’? 

  • How does ‘war amongst the people’ relate to other doctrinal approaches, such as the development of mass for peer on peer formation warfare? 

  • What social theories have been most influential in shaping military understanding of the ‘people’ in war and what have the consequences been of such theoretical influence?

  • How should the armed forces relate to local cultural practices?


  • ​How does the army select its local interlocutors?

  • What implications, if any, are there for the educational and training of the armed forces and what is the level of training at present?


  • ​How does the use of private military and security companies affect, if at all, the relationship between an armed force and the local population?


  • In a legal context, how has the notion of ‘war amongst the people’ affected the Law of Armed Conflict principle of distinction, at both the strategic and tactical levels?

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2017: War Amongst the People: A Critical Assessment

                                 FRIDAY 30th JUNE 2017

                     Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

For the first in a series of symposia held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, as part of a partnership with Howgate Publishing, the Department of Defence and International Affairs is looking for both scholars and practitioners to present papers on the theme of ‘war amongst the people’, with a particular focus on who the ‘people’ are in this context, the inter-relationships between the people and the armed forces and the implications this has for the way in which armed forces, both UK and international, behave.

Recent conflicts have required the armed forces to engage in what has been termed ‘war amongst the people’. Such conflicts increasingly require a type of soldier that is increasingly asked to be an ‘armed social worker’, as was seen most recently in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this increased focus on societal relations has - and should - become the area of prime concern for contemporary armed forces, this poses a series of conceptual and practical questions regarding who the people are and what is the nature of the society amongst whom war is conducted. In this context, the concept of ‘human terrain’ has arguably proved insufficient when it comes to producing viable answers to such questions. More specific consideration of the intricate and individual level of specific social interaction needs to be taken, to capture the complexity of the social.


It is the aim of this symposium to explore in greater detail the societal context of ‘war amongst the people’ and to investigate how armed forces have and could make sense of such complexity in conceptual terms and how it has practically interacted with local power structures and relations, with both positive and negative effects. This event aims at exploring armed forces’ engagement at the local level, in a contemporary context, and the broader political, strategic, tactical and legal implication this engagement has had, both for the military actor and the people themselves.

By drawing on an inter-disciplinary dialogue, as well as encouraging the academic-practitioner interface, to explore both theoretical and practical experiences of the problems arising from ‘war amongst the people’, the symposium seeks to draw practical and political lessons from the relationship between the armed forces and ‘the people’, with a particular focus on contemporary conflict.

Keynote address

By Professor Beatrice Heuser (University of Reading) 

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