The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations

By Ian Morris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
WAR-MAKING CAPACITY

MEASURING WAR-MAKING CAPACITY

Nothing made Western domination of the world quite so clear as the First Opium War of 1840–42 CE, when a small British fleet shot its way into China, threatened to close the Grand Canal that brought food to Beijing, and extracted humiliating concessions from the Qing government. According to Lord Robert Jocelyn, who accompanied the fleet, “The ships opened their broadsides upon the town [of Tinghai], and the crashing of timber, falling houses, and groans of men resounded from the shore. The firing lasted form our side for nine minutes… . We landed on a deserted beach, a few dead bodies, bows and arrows, broken spears and guns remaining the sole occupants of the field.”1

The Chinese learned the lesson well. “Every communist must grasp this truth,” Mao Zedong would say a century later: “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”2 It was ever thus, and the capacity to make war has always been a crucial part of social development.3

Fortunately for the index, a combination of factors—historians’ obsession with recording wars, compulsive military record keeping, artistic patrons’ fondness for being portrayed as warriors, the widespread practice of burying dead men with arms and armor, the archaeological visibility of fortifications—means that we are relatively well informed about some aspects of war in many historical con-

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The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction- Quantifying Social Development 1
  • Chapter 2 - Methods and Assumptions 25
  • Chapter 3 - Energy Capture 53
  • Chapter 4 - Social Organization 144
  • Chapter 5 - War-Making Capacity 173
  • Chapter 6 - Information Technology 218
  • Chapter 7 - Discussion- The Limits and Potential of Measuring Development 238
  • Notes 265
  • References 321
  • Index 375
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