We think we know civil war when we see it. Yet ideas of what it is, and what it isn’t, have a long and contested history, from its fraught origins in republican Rome to debates in early modern Europe to our present day. Defining the term is acutely political, for ideas about what makes a war “civil” often depend on whether one is a ruler or a rebel, victor or vanquished, sufferer or outsider. Calling a conflict a civil war can shape its outcome by determining whether outside powers choose to get involved or stand aside: from the American Revolution to the war in Iraq, pivotal decisions have depended on such shifts of perspective.
The age of civil war in the West may be over, but elsewhere in the last two decades it has exploded–from the Balkans to Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and Sri Lanka, and most recently Syria. And the language of civil war has burgeoned as democratic politics has become more violently fought. This book’s unique perspective on the roots and dynamics of civil war, and on its shaping force in our conflict-ridden world, will be essential to the ongoing effort to grapple with this seemingly interminable problem.
Sven Beckert - The American Historical Review, Volume 122, Issue 4, 1 October 2017, Pages 1137–1170, Link to Full Text
Abstract During the last third of the nineteenth century, a debate emerged in a number of European countries on the “American danger.” Responding to the rapid rise of the United States as the world’s most important economy, some European observers feared their nations’ declining competitiveness in the face of the territorial extent of the United States, and its ability to integrate a dynamic industrial sector with ample raw material supplies, agriculture commodities, markets, and labor into one national economy. This “second great divergence” provoked a range of responses, as statesmen, capitalists, and intellectuals advocated for territorial rearrangements of various European economies, a discussion that lasted with greater or lesser intensity from the 1870s to the 1950s. Their sometimes competing and sometimes mutually reinforcing efforts focused on African colonialism, European integration, and violent territorial expansion within Europe itself. Using the debate as a lens to understand the connections between a wide range of policy responses, this article argues that efforts to territorialize capitalist economies delineate a particular moment in the long history of capitalism; and it demonstrates the unsettling effects of the rise of the United States on European powers.
I discuss how printing affected the practice of scholarship by examining the working methods of Conrad Gessner (1516–65), a prolific humanist, bibliographer, and natural historian. Gessner supplemented his revenue as city physician in Zurich through his publishing activities. He hailed printing, along with libraries to preserve the books, as crucial to the successful transmission of learning to the distant future. Gessner also used printing as a kind of social media: to reach readers rapidly all over Europe, in order to solicit contributions to his research projects underway, to advertise forthcoming books, and to develop his own thinking through multiple iterations.
The flood of information brought to us by advancing technology is often accompanied by a distressing sense of “information overload,” yet this experience is not unique to modern times. In fact, says Ann M. Blair in this intriguing book, the invention of the printing press and the ensuing abundance of books provoked sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European scholars to register complaints very similar to our own. Blair examines methods of information management in ancient and medieval Europe as well as the Islamic world and China, then focuses particular attention on the organization, composition, and reception of Latin reference books in print in early modern Europe. She explores in detail the sophisticated and sometimes idiosyncratic techniques that scholars and readers developed in an era of new technology and exploding information.