Praise for War! What Is It Good For?“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, author of Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence and 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, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and 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, author of Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West
A powerful and provocative exploration of how war has changed our 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.