War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

by Ian Morris

Farrar, Straus And Giroux | August 19, 2015 | Hardcover

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A powerful and provocative exploration of how war has changed our society-for the better

"War! . . . . / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing," says the famous song-but archaeology, history, and biology show that war in fact has been good for something. Surprising as it sounds, war has made humanity safer and richer.

In War! What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of fifteen thousand years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the twentieth century, by contrast-despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust-fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence. Strangely enough, killing has made the world safer, and the safety it has produced has allowed people to make the world richer too.

War has been history's greatest paradox, but this searching study of fifteen thousand years of violence suggests that the next half century is going to be the most dangerous of all time. If we can survive it, the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass. But, Morris argues, only if we understand what war has been good for can we know where it will take us next.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 512 pages, 9.22 × 6.4 × 1.61 in

Published: August 19, 2015

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374286000

ISBN - 13: 9780374286002

Found in: History

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– More About This Product –

War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

by Ian Morris

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 512 pages, 9.22 × 6.4 × 1.61 in

Published: August 19, 2015

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374286000

ISBN - 13: 9780374286002

Read from the Book

1 THE WASTELAND? WAR AND PEACE IN ANCIENT ROME The Battle at the Edge of the WorldFor the first time in memory, the tribes had made peace—Vacomagi with Taexali, Decantae with Lugi, and Caereni with Carnonacae—and every man who could hold a sword was streaming toward the Graupian Mountain. This, the chiefs agreed, was the way the Romans would come. And here, where the highlands dropped down toward the cold North Sea (Figure 1.1), the Caledonians would make a stand that would live in song forever.We will never know what praise the long-haired Celtic bards heaped on the heroes who fought that day; all their epics are long forgotten. Only a single account of what happened now survives, written by Tacitus, one of the greatest of ancient Rome’s historians. Tacitus did not follow the army to the Graupian Mountain, but he did marry the general’s daughter, and when we put his description of the fighting together with archaeologists’ finds and other Roman writings, we get two things—not only a pretty good idea of what happened when the armies clashed nearly two thousand years ago,* but also a stark statement of the problem that this book tries to solve.“Men of the North!”Calgacus was shouting at the top of his lungs, trying to be heard over the chanting of war bands, the braying of copper horns, and the clattering of chariots in the valley below. In front of him were thirty thousand jostling, disorderly men, more than anyone had ever seen in these northern wilds. He raised his arms fo
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From the Publisher

A powerful and provocative exploration of how war has changed our society-for the better

"War! . . . . / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing," says the famous song-but archaeology, history, and biology show that war in fact has been good for something. Surprising as it sounds, war has made humanity safer and richer.

In War! What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of fifteen thousand years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the twentieth century, by contrast-despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust-fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence. Strangely enough, killing has made the world safer, and the safety it has produced has allowed people to make the world richer too.

War has been history's greatest paradox, but this searching study of fifteen thousand years of violence suggests that the next half century is going to be the most dangerous of all time. If we can survive it, the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass. But, Morris argues, only if we understand what war has been good for can we know where it will take us next.

About the Author

Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor in History at Stanford University and the author of the critically acclaimed Why the West Rules-for Now. He has published ten scholarly books and has directed excavations in Greece and Italy. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California.

Editorial Reviews

"[Morris's] pace is perfect, his range dazzling, his phrasemaking fluent, his humor raucous.[A] rattling good book." -Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Wall Street Journal"[A]n exuberant and wonderfully entertaining tour de force of history, archaeology, anthropology, geography, evolutionary biology and technological and military speculation that improbably combines a hardcore intellectual seriousness with a larky, almost blokeish note that would go down just as well on Top Gear as it clearly does at Stanford." -David Crane, The Spectator"[Morris's] argument is brilliantly made, argued across a huge sweep . . . It is a magnificent and stimulating read, and should be given to anyone involved in the business of war and peace, or the human fate in any respect--and already a book of the year." -Robert Fox, The Evening Standard"Morris's effort is in a different league . . . He is a much wittier and more self-deprecating writer than most of his competitors, has a sharper eye for facts and ancedotes, and steers well clear of preening bombast . . . Clear, acute and counterintuitive, his book is a pleasure to read." -Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times"Big ideas spill out on almost every page of War! This is that rarest of books, one that both entertains and challenges." -Alan Cate, Cleveland.com"This erudite yet compulsively readable history of war (and actually much more) by archaeologist-historian Morris (Why the West Rules--For Now, 2010) takes the provocative position that, over time, t
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