War! What Is It Good For?
Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
A POWERFUL AND PROVOCATIVE EXPLORATION OF HOW WAR HAS CHANGED OUT 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.
Financial Times Books of the Year, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
THE WASTELAND? WAR AND PEACE IN ANCIENT ROME
The Battle at the Edge of the World
For the first time in memory, the tribes had made peace—Vacomagi with Taexali, Decantae with Lugi, and Caereni...
Praise for War! What Is It Good For?
“A disturbing, transformative text that veers toward essential reading.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An exuberant and wonderfully entertaining tour de force.” —David Crane, The Spectator (London)
“Ian Morris has established himself as a leader in making big history interesting and understandable.” —Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed-
In the Press
If violent deaths fell and prosperity rose after the Roman conquests, we could conclude that Cicero was right; war was good for something. If the results came out the other way, then obviously Calgacus understood his age better, and war made only wastelands. But reality is rarely that convenient. - Discourse in Progress