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42 Free Online Courses On War

“All is fair in love and war.”

   — John Lyly 

A while ago we published an article on history MOOCs for all you history buffs.

This time we are back again — with a list of carefully-curated courses on war. Some of you reading this might think: “Bah! Ain’t nobody got time to waste doing courses related to war.” But it is not a waste of time! Doing courses on war and understanding the ideologies and theories behind them gives us perspective and broadens our horizons.

History encompasses World War I and II, the Mongol conquests, countless wars for freedom and liberation, civil wars, the Korean War, the Taiping Rebellion, the Napoleonic Wars, The French Revolution, the Vietnam War, and so many more! So many lives were lost. These wars teach us the lesson of never repeating the mistakes of our ancestors.

As usual, all these courses will be taught by some of the top universities and are free!

Take a look! We’ve provided a table of contents to help you browse more easily.

Table of Contents

 

Civil War

The Civil War and Reconstruction — 1850-1861: A Nation Divided
Columbia University via edX

After discussing the institution of slavery and its central role in the southern and national economies, the course turns to an account of the political and social history of the 1850s. It traces how the issue of the expansion of slavery came to dominate national politics, and how political leaders struggled, unsuccessfully, to resolve the growing crisis.

Review
This is the first of 3 modules about the Civil War. It is a wonderful course. You will learn so much about our country, the politics of the time, the plight of the slaves, and how racism came about after the war (that is Module 3, though). I highly recommend all 3 modules.” — Valorie Hamachek

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (5 ratings)

The Civil War and Reconstruction – 1861 – 1865: A New Birth of Freedom
Columbia University via edX

While the course examines individual engagements and the overall nature of the military conflict, the focus is less on the battlefield than on political, social, and economic change in the Union and the Confederacy.

Review:
Eric Foner is not only extremely well versed on the topic, but he is a witty, engaging lecturer who makes you hate to see the course end. Do yourself a favor — enroll in all 3 classes.” — Bob
Bookmark | ★★★★★ (4 ratings)

The Civil War and Reconstruction – 1865-1890: The Unfinished Revolution
Columbia University via edX

“The Unfinished Revolution” examines the pivotal but misunderstood Era of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, the first effort in American history to construct an interracial democracy. Beginning with a discussion of the dramatic change in historians’ interpretations of the period in the last two generations, the course goes on to discuss how Reconstruction turned on issues of continued relevance today.

Review:
This entire 3 course series is a must for ANYONE interested in learning about the country during that extremely trying time. I came across HIST1.3X in time to take the class when it was originally presented. This stoked my curiosity to then take 1.2x & 1.1x, all of which were absolutely fantastic! Do yourself a favor — all 3 are now archived and available. They are the three best courses I have taken thus far!!!” — Bob

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (4 ratings)

World War I and II

World War 1: Lessons and Legacy of the Great War
University of New South Wales via FutureLearn

In this short, free online course, we offer you the opportunity to uncover both the mechanics and the memory of the Great War. Focusing on the Western Front, the most important and bloody theatre of the war, we will examine how the Allied armies experienced a “learning curve.” We will see how they integrated new training, techniques, and technologies to end the stalemate of trench warfare, defeat the German invader, and liberate Belgium and northern France from four hard years of military occupation.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (4 ratings)

The Holocaust: an Introduction — Part 1
Tel Aviv University via FutureLearn

This free online course was produced jointly by Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem — the World Center for Holocaust Research. The course tracks the history of the Holocaust.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (6 ratings)

The Holocaust: an Introduction — Part 2
Tel Aviv University via FutureLearn

The Holocaust was an inconceivable historical event, which forever robbed Western culture of its innocence. As civilized human beings, we fail to understand how events of such horror could have taken place, and how an idea so inhumanly warped could have spread like wildfire through an entire continent, instigating the systematic annihilation of millions of Jews.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (4 ratings)

The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry
University of California, Santa Cruz via Coursera

In this course, you will explore the Holocaust from the overlapping perspectives of literature and history — through memoirs, historical documents, poetry, documentary footage, filmic representations, and novels.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (2 ratings)

The Holocaust — An Introduction (II): The Final Solution
Tel Aviv University via Coursera

The Holocaust was an inconceivable historical event, which forever robbed Western culture of its innocence. As civilized human beings, we fail to understand how events of such horror could have taken place, and how an idea so inhumanly warped could have spread like wildfire through an entire continent, instigating the systematic annihilation of millions of Jews.

Review:
I completed both this and the second part of the same course. I really enjoyed it and felt it was informative, thought-provoking, and compelling. The main lecturer is a little boring to watch, but by the end of the course she seemed like a friend. Once I got used to her accent, I didn’t find her hard to understand, though sometimes when I had the subtitles on, I heard differently than I read. I suppose the transcripts would have been better than the subtitles. I wouldn’t hesitate to take another course from this lecturer.” — Tori Billings

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

World War 1: A History in 100 Stories
Monash University via FutureLearn

This free online course is part of the 100 Stories Project at Monash University, commemorating the Anzac centenary and exploring the cost of war. The course will coincide with Anzac Day on April 25, and suggests new and more inclusive ways of remembering.

Review:
This is an excellent introduction to World War I. The 100 stories are artfully and sensitively portrayed and the supporting materials very helpful. My one criticism is that a significant amount of time is dedicated to researching stories by exploring Australian archives, which was not relevant to a US student.” — Toby A.Smith
Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (8 ratings)

From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War
Royal Holloway, University of London via FutureLearn

This free online course is a collaboration between the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museums and the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. It will introduce you to some of the major turning points in the history of Britain in the post-1945 era.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (1 rating)

The Middle East

The Emergence of the Modern Middle East — Part I
Tel Aviv University via Coursera

This course will discuss the emergence of the modern Middle East from the fall of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the First World War, to the present. It will discuss the Ottoman legacy in the region and the Western imperial impact on the creation of the Arab state system.

Review:
Has been very interesting. Middle East’s history is very puzzled but still worthy of attention considering the recent wars there and the so-called Arab Spring. I hope to attend a similar course led by an Arab staff in the future.” — Diego Riccardi

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (9 ratings)

The Emergence of the Modern Middle East — Part 2
Tel Aviv University via Coursera

This course will discuss the developments in the Middle East from the early 20th century to the present. It will discuss the rise and retreat of Arab nationalism, the problems of internal cohesion of the Arab states, issues of religion and state, and the evolution of Islamist politics.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (5 ratings)

War for the Greater Middle East
Boston University via edX

War for the Greater Middle East | BUx on edX | Course About Video

This course offers a history of that war, for better understanding of the factors that inspired the United States to launch the conflict and to persist in a doomed enterprise. Inviting you to learn how the war unfolded from one phase to the next, from the era of Jimmy Carter to the age of Barack Obama, it catalogs the errors of judgment and implementation made along the way.

Review:
I would thank Prof. Bacevich and his staff for their courage to say in a straight way their opinions about these delicate and important issues, even if some of these can be very unpopular and not considered not “politically correct” in their country. It’s a very recommended course for understanding better an actual crucial conflict in our world.” — Deigo Riccardi

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (6 ratings)

The History of Modern Israel — Part I: From an Idea to a State
Tel Aviv University via Coursera

How did the State of Israel come to be? How is it that an idea, introduced in 19th century Europe, became a reality? And how does that reality prevail in the harsh complexities of the Middle East? This course will take you on a journey through the history of Modern Israel.

Review:
I loved doing this course. I learned so much about the history of Israel, its people, and its culture. The professors, Eyal Naveh and Asher Susser, are amazing and they definitely know the subject very well. It is definitely worth it to anyone who wants to know more about the country and why it is how it is today. Thank you.” — Luiza Pinaud

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

The History of Modern Israel — Part II: Challenges of Israel as a sovereign state
Tel Aviv University via Coursera

This course deals with the Israeli politics, economy, society, and culture since its creation in 1948 till today. It analyzes the construction of the Israeli historical narrative as an identity-building narrative, intending to inculcate a collective memory to a diverse society. We will focus on key events and essential components that shaped the Israeli society from the fifties till the present.

Bookmark

Terrorism

Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice
Leiden University via Coursera

What does terrorism exactly mean? What is the nature of this threat? Who or what is threatened, how, by whom, and why? What can be done about it, or how can we at least limit the impact of terrorism and make sure that terrorists do not make headlines and manage to scare us?

These are just a handful of questions that will be addressed in this course.

Review:
I’ve been studying one particular aspect of the field for about fifteen years now, but lacked the sort of wider context that this course has provided. And I’ve made contacts here that I hope will develop into friendships.” —  Charles Cameron, 69, Blogger Religious Studies, UK
Bookmark | ★★★★★ (18 ratings)

Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat
University of Maryland, College Park via Coursera

The course will begin with a unit looking at widely held myths about terrorism and utilizing empirical data to discuss the realities of broad trends and patterns in terrorist attacks over time. The course will then review the psychological factors at play in individual radicalization and recruitment into terrorism, followed by an analysis of terrorist group dynamics.

Bookmark | ★★★☆☆ (4 ratings)

Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Georgetown University via edX

This course on terrorism will explore the nuances involved in defining terrorism, the nature of Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Islamic State, and other important groups, the effectiveness of different counterterrorism tools, terrorist recruiting, counterterrorism and the rule of law, the political context in South Asia and the Middle East, and the terrorist use of technology.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (5 ratings)

Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?
Duke University via Coursera

This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies the United States adopted in response. We will examine the phenomenon of modern terrorism, the development of the al Qai’da ideology, and the process by which individuals radicalize towards violence.

Bookmark

The Ancient World

The Ancient Greeks
Wesleyan University via Coursera

This is a survey of ancient Greek history from the Bronze Age to the death of Socrates in 399 BCE. Along with studying the most important events and personalities, we will consider broader issues such as political and cultural values, and methods of historical interpretation.

Review:
Excellent overview. I have used what I learned in successive courses. Very personable professor. Readings were valuable. The presentation wasn’t “exciting” — just lecture style, but the information was excellent. It gave me a good foundation for further study.” — Teresa Glover

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (19 ratings)

Greek and Roman Mythology
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. This course will investigate these questions through a variety of topics, including the creation of the universe, the relationship between gods and mortals, human nature, religion, the family, sex, love, madness, and death.

Review:
Outstanding. Well thought out, well organized, well presented. I was not particularly interested in the topic but the excellence of the course kept me coming back for more.” — Anonymous

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (10 ratings)

Greeks at War: Homer at Troy
Colgate University via edX

This course explores the idea that war is both universal and particular. The Vietnam War was not the same as the Iraq War. In every war, some things are the same, while some are different. Intense suffering and horrific acts are inevitable.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

Warfare and Weapons in Ancient Egypt
University of Manchester via Canvas Network

This course, led by expert Egyptologist and author, Dr. Joyce Tyldesley, explores the art, archaeology, and technology of Egyptian warfare and weapons from the Predynastic Period (Dynasty 0) to the end of the New Kingdom (Dynasty 20).

Bookmark | ★★★☆☆ (2 ratings)

French Wars

The French Revolution
University of Melbourne via Coursera

The French Revolution was one of the most important upheavals in world history. This course examines its origins, course, and outcomes.

Review:
Very well done course about a crucial event where you’re also given some very good readings about it for free.” — Diego Riccardi

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (14 ratings)

Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
University of Southampton via FutureLearn

The Battle of Waterloo was one of the key events of nineteenth-century history, but why was it fought, who was involved, and what were the consequences? This free online course will answer these questions.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (1 rating)

Korea

Lips and Teeth: Korea and China in Modern Times
Yonsei University via FutureLearn

This free online course from Yonsei University in Seoul will cover a lot of ground chronologically, focusing on watershed moments that include: the Imjin War (1592–1598); the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895); the Korean War (1950–1953); and the end of the Cold War (1991).

Review:
Enlightening course on historical to contemporary relationship between China and Korea. Professor John Delury’s lectures and articles are succinct yet very informative. Greatly recommended!” — Anonymous

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (1 rating)

Modern Korean History: Liberation, War and Nuclear Ambitions
Yonsei University via FutureLearn

This free online course, from Yonsei University in Seoul, will explore the modern history of Korea from 1945 to the present. The historical journey will wind its way through a catastrophic civil war, economic collapse, and the rapid rise of two model states within the Cold War framework.

Bookmark

Tokyo

Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 1
The University of Tokyo via edX

Tokyo emerged out of the ruins of war to become a large city of ten million people in only a quarter of a century. It is important to know that this process was recorded in countless photographs, documentary films, TV programs, and so on. We will retrieve many of these archived pictures and videos and analyze what happened in postwar Tokyo from different perspectives.

Review:
An informative overview of how Tokyo and to a greater extent Japan evolved from WW2 from cultural, political, and social perspectives. Highly recommended for any history or Japan fan 😀” — Stanley Mwangi

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (1 rating)

Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 2
The University of Tokyo via edX

In Part 2, we will focus on the geopolitics of these gazes in modern Tokyo. What kinds of gazes fell upon the war orphans, the poor, and the marginalized groups in Tokyo? How did students themselves, who represented the vast accumulation of knowledge in Tokyo, perform in front of these gazes? Moreover, how did cinema or television shows, as media for these gazes, implicate the whole city?

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (1 rating)

International Relations

Cooperation in the Contemporary World: Unlocking International Politics
University of Birmingham via FutureLearn

As world leaders seek to find a solution to crises in Syria and Ukraine; economists try to reinvigorate stalling global financial markets and a range of actors gather to find a consensus on climate change. Achieving cooperation on such issues is the defining concern of international politics in the 21st century. This free online course will introduce you to the range of political strategies that have been employed to meet these challenges.

Review:
… has been an excellent course because there is lot of free further reading available and the staff feedback is also excellent.” — Diego Riccardi

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (2 ratings)

The Changing Global Order
Leiden University via Coursera

How are international power relations changing and how can global peace and stability be maintained? This course familiarizes you with some main theories of international relations, shows how the global order is gradually changing, and discusses how selected international and regional organizations contribute to the maintenance of global peace and security.

Review:
Good and well-structured introduction into thinking about international relations. The material can be somewhat ‘dry’ but I really liked how different profs and guest speakers highlighted different angles and I found the reading material and essay writing interesting [and] easy to set myself to (which is an accomplishment in itself :-)).” — Rooswilhelm

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

21st Century American Foreign Policy
Duke University via Coursera

Our goal in this course is to gain more understanding of what U.S. foreign policy is, who makes it, why is it the way it is, and how it affects the rest of the world. Through lectures, readings, and other course elements we build on the information available from the media and other such sources while delving deeper into the issues, their history, their broader context, and major debates.

Review:
Many thanks to Professor Bruce W Jentleson, his team, and Duke University [and the] coursera.org site for [a] great opportunity to follow the course, which for me was very instructive and stimulating. It was also a useful tool for my work. I note with pleasure the quality of the course, technical support, and professionals involved in this project. Waiting for the next challenge.” — Anonymous

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

Philosophical Aspects of War

Ideas of the Twentieth Century
The University of Texas at Austin via edX

Join this thought-provoking, broad-sweeping course as it draws intriguing connections between philosophy, art, literature, and history, illuminating our world and our place in it.

Review:
I was extremely impressed with Dr. Daniel Bonevac’s introductory filmina. Yes, the 20th century was one of great technological progress and horrible destruction. Winston Churchill, in my opinion, (for what that is worth), one of the great men of all time.” — Anonymous

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (4 ratings)

The Great War and Modern Philosophy
KU Leuven University via edX

Students in this course will be introduced to different philosophical reactions to the Great War through discussion and analysis of texts, documents, images, artworks, film, and music. The relation between philosophy and poetry will also be explored.

Bookmark

Other

Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923
Trinity College Dublin via FutureLearn

Looking at Ireland through war and revolution, this course considers these and other questions about Irish life between 1912 and 1923.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

The Modern World, Part Two: Global History since 1910
University of Virginia via Coursera

This is a survey of modern history from a global perspective. Part Two begins early in the twentieth century, as older ways of doing things and habits of thought give way. What follows is an era of cataclysmic struggles over what ideas and institutions will take their place. The course concludes in the present day, as communities everywhere are transitioning into a new era of world history.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

Military Ethics: an Introduction
University of New South Wales via FutureLearn

Military professionals are unusual in having the use of lethal force as a central, defining feature of their role, and unique in the level of force that they are authorized to use. This fact places a considerable ethical weight on military practitioners as well as the civilian decision-makers who authorize military missions.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

Causes of War
King’s College London via FutureLearn

This free online course will introduce you to current thinking on the causes of armed conflict in the world today. It looks at a range of modern and historical conflicts and draws on a variety of theories and approaches. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in world affairs.

Review:
The course was interesting, informative, and well presented; however, I found myself enrolled in more MOOCs than I could reasonably handle and had to withdraw from a few. Hopefully this course will be offered again, and if so, I will consider signing up again.” — Nancy Edwards

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (5 ratings)

Conditions of War and Peace
The University of Tokyo via Coursera

This course aims to nail down some of the basic issues that have been argued in the current research on peace and security. The questions are all deceptively simple enough, but then the answers will all be ambiguous at best.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (7 ratings)

Paradoxes of War
Princeton University via Coursera

The “Paradoxes of War” teaches us to understand that war is not only a normal part of human existence, but is arguably one of the most important factors in making us who we are. Through this course, I hope that you will come to appreciate that war is both a natural expression of common human emotions and interactions, and a constitutive part of how we cohere as groups.

Review:
I am a Vietnam Veteran and I think this class is very profound and enlightening. I am enjoying it immensely.” — Anonymous

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (7 ratings)

Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today
Stanford University

Bill Perry on new MOOC about nuclear weapons

The key goals of this course are to warn you of the dangers you face and to give you some insight on what could be done to avoid those dangers (nuclear). My challenge in this course is to make vivid to you that the dangers of nuclear weapons, far from being historical curiosities, are existential dangers today. You will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about these topics with both world experts and peers from around the globe.

Bookmark

Agincourt 1415: Myth and Reality

University of Southampton via FutureLearn

The Battle of Agincourt, in 1415, is one of the most famous battles in the history of warfare, and one of the most important and memorable English victories. This free online course will explore the myths and realities about the battle.

Review:
I’ve taken several courses with FutureLearn and have enjoyed almost all of them. This one was no exception. It was quite in-depth and there was some really interesting stuff from the National Archives and some other museums. If you have any interest in early 15th century European/Anglo history, I highly recommend it.” — Tory Billings
Bookmark | ★★★★★ (5 ratings)