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The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War…

The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order (2000)

by Michael Howard

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An astonishingly good little book. Everyone should read it.

Essentially an overview of the place of warfare in European society, from feudal times, through the invention of states, through Napoleon and mass armies,through the first and second world wars and the cold war, till today.
While this is all history that one thinks one knows, the way in which it is amalgamated to produce a consistent narrative is remarkable. ( )
  name99 | Nov 14, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0300088663, Hardcover)

"War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention," claimed Sir Henry Maine in the middle of the 19th century. In his short, polemic book The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order, Michael Howard develops Maine's argument, and while not completely endorsing it, he convincingly argues that peace "is certainly a far more complex affair than war."

At just over a hundred pages, The Invention of Peace is more of an essay than a book, and its massive historical sweep will undoubtedly irritate some readers. Beginning in A.D. 800, when war "was recognized as an intrinsic part of the social order," it extends to 2000, when "militant nationalist movements or conspiratorial ones" suggest that in the near future "armed conflict becomes highly probable." However, Howard's credentials for writing this type of macro reflection on war and international relations are impeccable. Having fought in Italy during the Second World War, he has held several chairs of History and War Studies, and remains the president of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. His many books include War in European History and a translation of von Clausewitz's classic On War.

With such qualifications, it is hardly surprising that Howard remains tied to the beliefs of the European Enlightenment, while also acknowledging that "the peace invented by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, an international order in which war plays no part, had been a common enough aspiration for visionaries throughout history, but it has been regarded by political leaders as a practicable or indeed desirable goal only during the past two hundred years." As Howard thoughtfully picks his way through the complex negotiations throughout European history that led to the brief eruption of peace into an otherwise uninterrupted state of war, he hopes that "Kant was right, and that, whatever else may happen, 'a seed of enlightenment' will always survive." Let's hope that he's right. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:46 -0400)

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