Decolonizing Civil War

Patricia Owens


This essay argues that there is a need to decolonize the genealogy of civil war. David Armitage’s new book brilliantly reveals civil war’s generative power in shaping European and North American conceptions of politics, revolution, and the laws of war. But to make sense of the discourse of civil war we also need to account for the constitutive exclusions of those whose struggles elite Europeans refused to recognize as “civil,” those not recognized as part of a common brotherhood or as co-belligerents. The absence/ presence of women, slaves, and barbarous armies is vital to the historical conception of civil war.

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