`Accurst be he that first invented war', wrote Christopher Marlowe - a declaration that most of us would take as a literary, not literal, construction. But in this ambitious examination of the origins, progress and fate of war, Robert O'Connell finds that it is indeed an invention - an institution that arose due to very specific historical circumstances. In a tour of human history that ranges from 5,500 BC to the present, by way of Egypt, Assyria, and China, O'Connell reveals the reasons for the development of war, shows how the militarization of societies destroyed sexual and social equality, and makes a provocative argument that industrialization has brought war to the verge of extinction.

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