Fall 2018

Political Warfare, Propaganda, and Disinformation

Listed in: History, as HIST-361


Mark R. Jacobson (Section 01)


[USC] This course will explore how information has been used as a political tool and a weapon of armed and non-armed conflict throughout history. The course will begin with a discussion of the development of theories of propaganda and mass persuasion from the early modern period through the nineteenth century to include readings on how technological advances and societal changes aided in the development of propaganda as a tool to both advocate and persuade. The next segment of the course will discuss how propaganda and political warfare developed during the twentieth century with an emphasis on the institutionalization of techniques and structures designed to wage psychological warfare during the World Wars as well as the political warfare and subversion used by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to read about the development of “disinformation” strategies used both on and off the battlefield to mislead and deceive target audiences. Finally, the course will conclude with readings on the contemporary period to include further discussion of change and continuity in approaches to political warfare as a result of technological advances such as the internet, mobile computing, and social media. While looking at the issue from a historical perspective, readings from various fields will be incorporated so students understand the psychology and social marketing dynamics underpinning modern approaches to political warfare, propaganda, and disinformation. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Fall Semester. John J. McCloy Visiting Professor Jacobson.

If Overenrolled: Priority to HIST majors, by seniority if necessary.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019