"Compact and intensely thought-provoking...densely researched and smoothly written, [Civil Wars] is a pointed attempt to understand the nature of civil war by understanding its history...Armitage traces the broad outlines of Rome's many civil wars and briskly moves his narrative forward through the centuries, looking at how the conflicts were theorized by thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, and Algernon Sidney and aphorized by public figures like Voltaire and Montesquieu. Always the narrative is haunted by the stark admission both of the frequency of civil war and of its savagery... "Civil war is an inheritance humanity may not be able to escape," he writes at the end of his account, but with the help of powerhouse books like this one, there may at least come greater understanding."
-Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor
"In Civil Wars Armitage traces the evolution of an explosive concept, not to pin down a proper meaning but to show why it remains so slippery...In an era of transnational populism and anti-globalist revolt, this [book] is resonant. The meaning of civil war, as Mr. Armitage shows, is as messy and multifaceted as the conflict it describes. His book offers an illuminating guide through the 2,000-year muddle and does a good job of filling a conspicuous void in the literature of conflict."
ranges over more than two millennia of history, law, and philosophy, but it feels as urgent as the latest shock, as fresh as tomorrow's news."-Richard Kreitner, The Nation
"Concise, wonderfully lucid, highly intelligent... a searching, nuanced, and succinct analysis." -Linda Colley, The New York Review of Books
"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."-Publishers 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." -Kirkus Reviews
Bracing and nuanced... Anyone trying to parse Syria's current military conflagration will find time with Civil Wars
well spent.-Karen R. Long, Newsday
"[A] brilliant, bold, and important new book."-Signature
"Armitage is a learned and winning tour guide, and Civil Wars
a valuable mapping tool for that journey."-Michael Moran, The Carnegie Reporter
"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
Reseña del editor
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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