In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Private Military and Security Companies

  • Introduction

Military History Private Military and Security Companies
Christopher Kinsey
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0252


This bibliography discusses the scholarship on private security. As many academics have observed over the past thirty years, mercenaries and private military and security companies (PMSCs) have become increasingly visible and important actors in the post–Cold War period. To be sure, the study of commercial violence has never been completely absent. Mercenaries have frequently caught the interest of historians from antiquity to the present day. However, it was not until the 1990s and the involvement of companies like Executive Outcomes (EO) in combat operations in Angola and Sierra Leone that sparked new interest in the subject. Moreover, this research is unlikely to come to an end anytime soon. Indeed, Russia’s use of Wagner, a Russian mercenary organization, suggests that mercenaries and PMSCs have a lucrative future. Academic research into their activities is therefore very likely to continue. This bibliography introduces a wide range of private security research topics across different disciplines and sub-disciplines and the academic literature they produced. These include international relations (IR), political theory, history, law and ethics, postcolonial and critical gender studies, international security studies and sociology, all of which have increased our understanding of the logics and patterns of behavior of mercenaries and PMSCs. In many ways, this bibliography is an attempt to map out the breadth and depth of the research into mercenarism and PMSCs, by examining in detail the evolution, drivers, and politics of this phenomenon. In so doing, the review is not just focused on the historical and empirical aspects of these commercial actors. It is also directed at the different theoretical arguments that seek to explain this trend in international security. Undoubtedly, this review cannot cover the whole spectrum of literature concerned with mercenarism and PMSCs. Nevertheless, the author is confident that the review does identify/cover the key literature that can explain many aspects of this important subject. In explaining the privatization of security, the bibliography starts with the first wave of research into the PMSC phenomenon before considering the phenomenon through the lenses of history, political theories, ethical and legal studies, critical theory, sociology, and African studies. It then compiles a list of books, edited volumes, and journal articles that do not fit neatly into the above list of disciplines, but that offer the reader unique insights into the mercenary and PMSC phenomenon. Finally, the bibliography brings together literature from non-academic sources, including government documents, popular books, and biographies.

Academic Literature General Overviews

This section begins with a discussion on the first wave of research books into the private military and security companies (PMSC) phenomenon that emerged at the end of the 1990s and into the start of the new millennium. These books are often referred to as either core or seminal text. It then examines the different histories of private force, before considering the phenomenon from various disciplines across social science.

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