Learned Indispensable [Armitage s] book is a model of its kind: concise, winningly written, clearly laid out, trenchantly argued His conclusion is sobering: human societies may never be without this kind of conflict, and we re better off trying to understand it than ignoring its problematic nature. It s hard to imagine a more timely work for today.
Publisher s Weekly (starred review)
A profound contribution to political philosophy.
Booklist (starred review)
A probing examination of the history of civil war and why it matters to define it precisely an erudite work by a top-shelf scholar.
Civil wars, bloody and long-lasting, are the worst source of violent conflict in the world today. In this dazzling book, David Armitage illuminates this ancient scourge with fresh insight. Ranging from Rome to the American Civil War to Rwanda, powerfully using thinkers from Cicero to Rawls to make sense of centuries of revolutionary and nationalist turmoil, Civil Wars fully achieves the promise of a genuinely international history. Packed with wisdom and learning, elegantly written and vigorously argued, this is a magnificent field guide to our current crises in Syria and elsewhere.
Gary Bass, author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide
Civil Wars, once confined to individual states have now become global . We all live increasingly with the consequences. David Armitage s book learned, powerful and elegant is, however, the first to chart how our understanding of what a civil war is has changed over time, from ancient Rome, where the concept was first invented, to modern Syria.Armitage has written a history in ideas which circulated among many different social groups not least of all the military at many different intellectual levels and in many different idioms. These are ideas that mattered; and they continue to matter. Civil Wars succeeds brilliantly in its ambition to uncover the origins of our present discontents .
Anthony Pagden, author of The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters
Through its military interventions abroad, our country has helped to unleash several civil wars over the last decade, only to become a bystander as they have been fought with all the ferocity that has marked such conflicts since their first occurrence in Roman times. Today, as we contemplate how to respond to an unsettled world, every citizen can profit from Armitage s learned and pathbreaking examination of this unique, and uniquely terrible, form of human aggression.
Samuel Moyn, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History
A highly original history, tracing the least understood and most intractable form of organized human aggression from Ancient Rome through the centuries to the present day.
We think we know civil war when we see it. Yet ideas of what it is, and what it isn't, have a long and contested history, from its fraught origins in republican Rome to debates in early modern Europe to our present day. Defining the term is acutely political, for ideas about what makes a war "civil" often depend on whether one is a ruler or a rebel, victor or vanquished, sufferer or outsider. Calling a conflict a civil war can shape its outcome by determining whether outside powers choose to get involved or stand aside: from the American Revolution to the war in Iraq, pivotal decisions have depended on such shifts of perspective.
The age of civil war in the West may be over, but elsewhere in the last two decades it has exploded--from the Balkans to Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and Sri Lanka, and most recently Syria. And the language of civil war has burgeoned as democratic politics has become more violently fought. This book's unique perspective on the roots and dynamics of civil war, and on its shaping force in our conflict-ridden world, will be essential to the ongoing effort to grapple with this seemingly interminable problem.
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