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War: what is it good for?


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Speaker(s): Professor Ian Morris
Chair: Professor Christopher Coker

Recorded on 10 April 2014 in Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House.

If you had been born 20,000 years ago, you would have faced a one in ten or even one in five chance of dying violently. But in the century since 1914—despite its two world wars, atomic bombs, and multiple genocides—that risk has fallen to barely one in 100. Why? The answer is uncomfortable: despite all its horrors, over the long run war itself has made the world a safer and richer place, because war alone has proved able to create larger societies that pacify themselves internally. This talk looks at how this paradoxical process has unfolded and what it means for the 21st century.

Ian Morris is Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of classics and professor of history at Stanford University and a fellow of the Stanford Archaeology Center. He directs Stanford's archaeological excavations at Monte Polizzo, Sicily, and has published ten books including Why the West Rules – For Now and War: What is it good for?. This event marks the publication of his latest book War: What is it good for?: The role of conflict in civilisation, from primates to robots.

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