War: A wide-ranging, readable history of armed conflict

Book review: Margaret MacMillan on how wars – past, present and future – impact society

A French soldier’s grave, on the battlefield of Verdun: Wars are not part of our past,  they are ongoing and are very likely to shape our future.

A French soldier’s grave, on the battlefield of Verdun: Wars are not part of our past, they are ongoing and are very likely to shape our future.

War has been a quintessential part of the human experience throughout history. For better or worse, it has shaped the world we live in. Most borders between countries around the globe are the result of armed conflicts. States and empires have risen and fallen as a consequence of wars. Economies, science, technology, medicine, art and culture have been profoundly transformed by wars, either as unintended consequences of conflict or as engines of accelerated change. Moreover, war is ongoing.

While for most western Europeans wars between states appear to be a thing of the past, a rather different picture emerges if we take a broader view. In large parts of Africa, Asia, South America and eastern Europe, the years since 1945 have been anything but peaceful. There has been a military conflict of one kind or another somewhere on the planet every year since the second World War came to an end.

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