War in Human Civilization

War in Human Civilization

War in Human Civilization

War in Human Civilization


Why do people go to war? Is it rooted in human nature or is it a late cultural invention? How does war relate to the other fundamental developments in the history of human civilization? And what of war today--is it a declining phenomenon or simply changing its shape?

In this sweeping study of war and civilization, Azar Gat sets out to find definitive answers to these questions in an attempt to unravel the riddle of war throughout human history, from the early hunter-gatherers right through to the unconventional terrorism of the twenty-first century. In the process, the book generates an astonishing wealth of original and fascinating insights on all major aspects of humankind's remarkable journey through the ages, engaging a wide range of disciplines, from anthropology and evolutionary psychology to sociology and political science. Written with remarkable verve and clarity and wholly free from jargon, it will be of interest to anyone who has ever pondered the puzzle of war.


This is an ambitious book. It sets out to find the answers to the most fundamental questions relating to the 'riddle of war'. Why do people engage in the deadly and destructive activity of fighting? Is it rooted in human nature or is it a late cultural invention? Have people always engaged in fighting or did they start to do so only with the advent of agriculture, the state, and civilization? How were these, and later, major developments in human history affected by war and, in turn, how did they affect war? Under what conditions, if at all, can war be eliminated, and is it declining at present?

These questions are not new and have seemingly resisted conclusive answers to the point that both questions and answers appear almost as clichés. in reality, however, they have very rarely been subjected to rigorous comprehensive investigation and, indeed, have largely been regarded as being too 'big' for serious scholarly treatment. With war being connected to everything else and everything else being connected to war, explaining war and tracing its development in relation to human development in general almost amount to a theory and history of everything. As so much is relevant to the subject, one is required to read pretty much 'everything' and become sufficiently expert in many fields. These are the prerequisites that it has been necessary to meet to produce this book.

Indeed, in pursuing the subject of war the book draws on information and insights from a wide range of scholarly disciplines and branches of knowledge, most notably: animal behaviour (ethology), evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, archaeology, history, historical sociology, and political science. Separated from each other by disciplinary walls, they all too often remain self-contained and oblivious of, if not downright hostile to, the other's methods, perspectives, and bodies of knowledge. Each discipline has its particular subject matter, choice methods for studying it, a set of dominating research questions, and, not least, distinctive terminology, historical development, and fashionable concerns. Together, all these constitute a disciplinary 'culture' and set the criteria for each discipline's 'standard research'—assimilated through professional training— which defines what constitutes good questions, acceptable answers, and a . . .

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