That Brutal Uncivilizer of Nations

Jens Bartelson


Civil Wars: A History in Ideas by David Armitage is a pioneering inquiry into the intellectual history of the concept of civil war from the Romans to the present day. It makes a great point in showing how civil war has been redefined for different strategic purposes across the ages, and how such instrumentalization has influenced the outcomes of battles and the content of historical narratives. Yet however mutable the divide between civil and international war is made to appear in this account, I argue that the drawing and redrawing of this divide would merit more attention if we want to come to terms with those conflicts in the past when it had not yet been articulated, and those conflicts in our present when it is in the process of being dissolved.

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