A highly original history of the least understood and most intractable form of organised human aggression, from ancient Rome to our present conflict-ridden world.
We think we know civil war when we see it. Yet ideas of what it is, and isn't, have a long and contested history. Defining the term is acutely political, for ideas about what makes a war "civil" often depend on whether one is ruler or rebel, victor or vanquished, sufferer or outsider; it can also shape a conflict's outcome, determining whether external powers are involved or stand aside. From the American Revolution to the Iraq war, pivotal decisions have hung on such shifts of perspective.
The West's age of civil war may be over, but elsewhere it has exploded ' from the Balkans to Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, 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, dynamics and shaping force of civil war will be essential to our ongoing struggles with this seemingly interminable problem.
'In 'Civil Wars'? Mr Armitage traces the evolution of an explosive concept, not to pin down a proper meaning but to show why it remains so slippery'¦ 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.'?'The Economist, 10th February 2017
'Armitage's goal, in this wide-ranging and informative book, is to examine the history of the idea of civil war as it has developed from the Romans until the present time'¦ He has given us a book that is full of insights.'?'John Gray, Literary Review, March 2017.
'Armitage's work is consistent and his goal is clear.'?'Ed Jones, LSE Review of Books
'Given his stature in the academy, Armitage could have easily continued to write learned monographs on focused subjects. Instead, in an attempt to revitalize the historical discipline, he has risked the scorn of his colleagues by trying new methods. Both the impulse to try new ways of writing history and the finished product should be applauded. Armitage's approach might cause a revolution within the discipline. As he knows all too well, that revolution will be preceded by civil war.'?'Prof. John M. Collins, Reviews in History
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