War: How Conflict Shaped Us
Published by Penguin Random House Canada
Year: 2021
The instinct to fight may be innate in human nature, but war—organized violence—comes with organized society. War has shaped humanity’s history, its social and political institutions, its values and ideas. Our very language, our public spaces, our private memories, and some of our greatest cultural treasures reflect the glory and the misery of war. War is an uncomfortable and challenging subject not least because it brings out both the vilest and the noblest aspects of humanity. Margaret MacMillan looks at the ways in which war has influenced human society and how, in turn, changes in political organization, technology, or ideologies have affected how and why we fight. War: How Conflict Shaped Us explores such much-debated and controversial questions as: When did war first start? Does human nature doom us to fight one another? Why has war been described as the most organized of all human activities? Why are warriors almost always men? Is war ever within our control? Drawing on lessons from wars throughout the past, from classical history to the present day, MacMillan reveals the many faces of war—the way it has determined our past, our future, our views of the world, and our very conception of ourselves.

From the Jury

“War! What is it good for?  Margaret MacMillan offers a tour de force of how humanity has been shaped by warfare throughout history. She takes us on a journey that begins with early evidence of war found in a skeleton from 3300 BC to modern times. MacMillan weaves in the work of philosophers, artists and poets who have been shaped by and shape our understanding of war. War is not only a struggle for power or resources, but also a powerful engine for innovation and progress.  A must read for anyone who wants to understand the many ways that war has shaped us over time.”
2021 Lionel Gelber Prize Shortlist | War: How Conflict Shaped Us