17.42 | Spring 2018 | Undergraduate

Causes and Prevention of War


First Paper Assignment

You have been transported in a time machine back to the year 1730 and made director of the Lebon Peace Fund, a large philanthropic foundation located somewhere in Europe. The Lebon Peace Fund was created by Derfla Lebon, a peace-loving tycoon who made a fortune in the arquebus trade and wants to atone for the mayhem she caused. She created the Lebon Fund to conceive and conduct projects that would prevent wars. What projects would you pursue?

Specifically, what projects might prevent the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 26 years? Since you come from the future you know how that war broke out. This knowledge should help you devise solutions.

A “project” can take many forms: sponsoring research, starting a department in a university, funding a political party, developing an industry, organizing a political movement, creating a government institution, plotting an assassination, funding propaganda, starting a religion, you name it. Lebon puts no limits on the way you spend her money. She just wants results.

Please describe your project(s) in a memo to Lebon of 2000–2200 words–about eight double-spaced pages–that summarizes what you propose to do and why.

Ground rules: Please propose projects that people could execute with technologies of the time or with plausible improvements on those technologies. Refrain from proposals that rely on radically new technology (“Please invent nuclear weapons and give them to Britain and France.”)

The point of the exercise is to identify causes of the Seven Years’ War that would have been manipulable in 1730 and to propose practical ways to manipulate them.

Your papers are due during Session 13. You are not required to do outside reading, but it might help.

An informative extra-reading article:

Higonnet, Patrice Louis-René. “The Origins of the Seven Years War.” Journal of Modern History 40, no. 1 (1968), pp. 57–90.

Two additional extra readings:

Anderson, Fred.  The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War. Penguin Books, 2006. ISBN: 9780143038047. [Preview with Google Books]

Black, Jeremy, ed. The Origins of War in Early Modern Europe. John Donald, 1987. ISBN: 9780859761680. 

You may confer with each other as you gather your thoughts. Several heads are better than one. However, we will be bored if you all reach the same conclusions.

You should get a draft of your paper to your TA by Session 11 (earlier is better) to get feedback.

Make sure your paper includes a clear summary introduction, of perhaps a paragraph. This paragraph should clearly state your question and should summarize your answer.

Please footnote statements of fact, using an abbreviated footnote style if you wish. Footnotes do not count toward the length-limit on your paper so use them freely.

If you want to write on another topic, say so and we will consider it.

Also, please familiarize yourself with the rules of citing sources and make sure you follow them. Failure to cite sources properly is plagiarism.

For more great writing advice, MIT students should consult the MIT Writing and Communication Center.

Student Example

“Lebon Peace Fund Proposal” (PDF)

Note: This example appears courtesy of a MIT student and is anonymous by request.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2018
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Lecture Notes