‘War: What is it good for?’

SPEAKER: Professor Ian Morris 

Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics

Fellow of the Archaeology Center

Stanford University

        TIME: 6 – 7pm, Wednesday 9th April 2014

VENUE: Committee Room 8, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

To attend please RSVP to: eventsassistant1@henryjacksonsociety.org

War is one of the greatest human evils. It has ruined livelihoods, provoked unspeakable atrocities and left countless millions dead. It has caused economic chaos and widespread deprivation, and the misery it causes poisons foreign policy for future generations.

Yet there is a case to be made that it is thanks to war that we live longer and more comfortable lives than ever before.  A person born 20,000 years ago 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 a hundred. Is war then in fact a good thing? Without war, would we never have built the nation-states which now keep us relatively safe from random acts of violence, and which have given us previously unimaginable wealth? Is war perhaps the only human invention that has allowed us to construct peaceful societies? And yet, if we continue waging war with ever-more deadly weaponry, are we running a risk destroying everything we have achieved?

By kind invitation of Dr. Julian Lewis MP, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Professor Ian Morris, Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and a Fellow of the Archaeology Center at Stanford University. Professor Morris will expand upon the arguments put across in his latest book, War: What is it good for?, to discuss humanity’s history of warfare and draw startling conclusions about our future. Professor Morris will bring to the table the assertion that war has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence and thus made the world a safer place altogether. He will however also argue that our struggles to manage warfare in the coming decades will make this period of time the most decisive in the history of our civilisation.


Ian Morris is Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and a Fellow of the Archaeology Center at Stanford University. He grew up in Britain and studied at Birmingham and Cambridge Universities before moving to the University of Chicago in 1987 and on to Stanford University in 1995. He directed Stanford’s archaeological excavations at Monte Polizzo in Sicily between 2000 and 2007 and has served at Stanford as Senior Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences, Chair of the Classics department, and Director of Stanford’s Archaeology Center and its Social Science History Institute. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

He has published thirteen books and more than a hundred articles. His book Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What they Reveal About the Future (published by Profile Books in 2010) won three literary awards, was named as one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Nature, The Evening Standard, and other periodicals, and has been translated into thirteen languages. Foreign Policy magazine ranked it number two among the books global thinkers were reading in 2011. His latest book, War! What is it Good For?, was published by Profile Books on April 1, 2014, and the next, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Values Evolve, will be out from Princeton in 2015.

He is spending the academic year 2013-14 as a National Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, writing a book to be called In the Beginning: A Global History of the Ancient World.

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