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

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-04-07
  • Publisher: Picador
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"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.

Author Biography

IAN MORRIS is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and professor in history at Stanford University as well as 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.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Introduction: Friend to the Undertaker 3

1. The Wasteland? War and Peace in Ancient Rome 27

2. Caging the Beast: The Productive Way of War 64

3. The Barbarians Strike Back: The Counterproductive Way of

War, A.D. 1- 1415 112

4. The Five Hundred Years' War: Europe (Almost) Conquers

the World, 1415-1914 165

5. Storm of Steel: The War for Europe, 1914- 1980s 235

6. Red in Tooth and Claw: Why the Chimps of Gombe Went

to War 288

7. The Last Best Hope of Earth: American Empire, 1989-? 332

Notes 395

Further Reading 411

Bibliography 433

Acknowledgments 473

Index 475

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