Civil Wars: A History in Ideas

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Civil War by David Armitage is about a particular kind of war. By definition, a war cannot be a civil war unless it is against a civil entity such as the Romans cives (citizens). The author defines earlier wars differently, even Greek rebellions against the Greek Polis. It may just be a semantic definition, but the author makes a good case that with Rome the rules changed and that most of our ideas stem from the Roman definition of civil war. The wars of Europe through the Middle Ages are called civil wars or rebellions depending on who is writing the history. The author traces this dichotomy of definition into our own “Civil War” and into modern times, showing how it affects our sympathies, fund raising, patriotic fervor, and other modern attitudes.

His writing is precise and organized. He writes to make you think through his points, and whether you agree with his perspective or not, there is no denying he has a wonderful grasp of history and how, in history, nothing happens in a vacuum. It is a scholarly book and the references to notes and bibliography are extensive. It is a serious student’s guide to conflicts and their origins, especially relevant for our time.


Reviewed By:

Author David Armitage
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 368 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2017-Feb-07
ISBN 9780307271136
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue June 2017
Category History
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