Civil Wars

Civil Wars

A History in Ideas

Book - 2017
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From the Balkans to Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and most recently Syria, civil conflict has exploded across the globe. In the West, politics itself looks ever more like civil war by other means. At such a charged time, David Armitage's unique perspective on the origins and dynamics of this phenomenon is indispensable. His highly original history traces this least understood and most intractable form of organized human aggression from ancient Rome through the centuries to the present day.
Ideas of what civil war is, and what it isn't, have a long and contested history. Defining the term is an acutely political act: whether a war is "civil" often depends on whether one is a ruler or a rebel, victor or vanquished, participant or foreigner. Likewise, calling any particular conflict a civil war can shape its outcome by determining whether other nations choose to get involved or stand aside. This is true of many conflicts: from the American Revolution (commonly referred to as a civil war as it was waged) to the U.S. Civil War to the Second Gulf War. In each, pivotal decisions by outside powers turned on precisely such shifts of perspective.
In Civil Wars , eminent historian David Armitage offers invaluable illumination. By touching on significant developments in Western thought--the poetry of Lucan, the political theory of Thomas Hobbes, the so-called Lieber Code produced during the U.S. Civil War, to name a few--he creates a "genealogy" of our sometimes contradictory notions about civil war. The result reveals much about how this intellectual inheritance has shaped the political fortunes of our uneasy world and how we might think about this form of violence in the future.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Allen Lane, 2017.
ISBN: 9780670069675
Branch Call Number: 355.021809 Arm
Characteristics: x, 349 pages ; 20 cm.


From Library Staff

Why read this book? Because civil war “has gradually become the most widespread, the most destructive, and the most characteristic form of organized human violence”; and its incidence rose dramatically especially after the Cold War, says David Armitage, Harvard history professor. There have been ... Read More »

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Aug 11, 2018

Harvard professor and historian David Armitage's book is subtitled "A History in Ideas," and it is less an overview of the many civil wars that have wracked the world and more a philosophy and ideology of civil wars. There are many books about war, but not many books that are an intellectual history of war and so this fills a need. It is an academic book for academics, but is written in a lucid and engaging style so that the lay reader can follow it.

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