War is one of the greatest human evils. It has ruined livelihoods, provoked unspeakable atrocities and left countless millions dead. It has caused economic chaos and widespread deprivation. And the misery it causes poisons foreign policy for future generations.
But, argues bestselling historian Ian Morris, in the very long term, war has in fact been a good thing. In his trademark style combining inter-disciplinary insights, scientific methods and fascinating stories, Morris shows that, paradoxically, war is the only human invention that has allowed us to construct peaceful societies. Without war, we would never have built the huge nation-states which now keep us relatively safe from random acts of violence, and which have given us previously unimaginable wealth. It is thanks to war that we live longer and more comfortable lives than ever before.
And yet, if we continue waging war with ever-more deadly weaponry, we will destroy everything we have achieved; so our struggles to manage warfare make the coming decades the most decisive in the history of our civilisation. In War: What Is It Good For? Morris brilliantly dissects humanity's history of warfare to draw startling conclusions about our future.
Morris is the world's most talented ancient historian (Niall Ferguson)
This is an astonishing book, full of controversy, brilliantly researched and thoughtfully argued ... one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking histories I've read in years. (Daily Telegraph 2014-04-26)
A provocative and extraordinary contribution to wide-screen comparative history ... a true banquet of ideas. (Boyd Tonkin Independent)
He is a much wittier and more self-deprecating writer than most of his competitors, has a sharper eye for facts and anecdote, and steers well clear of the preening bombast that so often disfigures such tracts. Clever, acute and counterintuitive, his book is a pleasure to read, and though his argument may be depressing, it seems pretty persuasive. (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times 2014-03-30)
Ian Morris' evidence that war has benefited our species-albeit inadvertently-is provocative, compelling, and fearless. This book is equally horrific and inspiring, detailed and sweeping, light-hearted and deadly serious. For those who think war has been a universal disaster it will change the way they think about the course of history. (Richard Wrangham Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human)
Perhaps you think that you already know everything about the history of all peoples on all the continents for the last 15,000 years. Even if you do, you'll still get a fresh perspective from this thought-provoking book. With this volume and his previous Why the West Rules-for Now, Ian Morris has established himself as a leader in making big history interesting and understandable. (Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed)
That war is the antithesis of everything we cherish in our modern civilization is that one rare idea nobody would dare disagree with in polite company. Nobody except Ian Morris that is. This delightful, erudite and thought-provoking book challenges some of our core beliefs. Morris argues, fairly convincingly, that far from being its antithesis, war is the mainspring of our civilization, and we are far from the last chapter of the history that war has made. You will be surprised, informed, entertained and most importantly challenged by this book. (Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty)
We now live in a far safer, healthier, and more prosperous world than any of our ancestors ever did. Ian Morris has drawn upon a breathtaking array of data from paleography, anthropology, history, psychology, and political science to demonstrate the unpalatable but inescapable truth that we do so thanks to what has for centuries been seen as mankind's greatest scourge: war. Written with all of Morris' habitual narrative flair, this brilliant book will surely change forever the way we think about human conflict and what we should attempt to do about it in the future. (Anthony Pagden Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and Wes)
Big thinker Morris (Why the West Rules-for Now) returns with an ambitious, epoch-spanning study of violence writ large across time and place ... By surveying germane, timely issues from containment to ICBMs and "doomsday devices," as well as speculating on the potentials of the transhuman and posthuman, Morris casts a wide net ... A fascinating and stimulating work sure to compel readers of anthropology, archaeology, history, and futurity. (Publishers Weekly)
A profoundly uncomfortable but provocative argument that "productive war" promotes greater safety, a decrease in violence and economic growth ... A disturbing, transformative text that veers towards essential reading (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
An ambitious, epoch-spanning study of violence writ large across time and place ... A fascinating and stimulating work sure to compel readers of anthropology, archaeology, history, and futurity. (Publishers Weekly)