Honors Theses

Date of Award

Winter 12-4-2020

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Croft Institute for International Studies

First Advisor

Benjamin Jones

Second Advisor

William Schenck

Third Advisor

Susan Allen

Relational Format



Researchers in the field of irregular conflict have observed that irregular forces such as insurgents and guerrillas have been victorious or forced draws in a greater percentage of conflicts over the past century compared with the century prior. More generally, researchers and practitioners have sought to better understand why seemingly weaker, irregular forces are able to win some wars against enemies who have significant material and other conventional advantages. This thesis engages with some of the literature in this field and focuses on what appears to be a particularly understudied issue: the potential role of shifts/innovations in military technology. Specifically, this study argues that machine guns can enhance the military effectiveness of irregular forces on balance even when both sides have access to/use machine guns. Due to the lack of data necessary for a large-N/statistical study of machine guns’ correlation with irregular conflict outcomes, this thesis relies on a comparison between periods of the Second Boer War and the German East Africa Campaign of WWI. This comparative case study offers limited, slightly mixed, but overall positive support for the hypothesis with regards to these cases. Although the findings do not directly mean that machine guns have played a non-trivial role in the observed pattern of irregular conflict outcomes, the findings bolster the plausibility of this claim and suggest that more research is warranted.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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