Modern War: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199607891

Richard English
152 Pages
115 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jul 2013
Very Short Introductions


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  • consider how it can be misunderstood or misrepresented
  • Looks at definition of modern war and how it has evolved
  • Considers the impact of modern warfare, including its social and cultural legacy

Warfare is the most dangerous threat faced by modern humanity. It is also one of the key influences that has shaped the politics, economics, and society of the modern period. But what do we mean by modern war? What causes modern wars to begin? Why do people fight in them, why do they end, and what have they achieved? 

In this accessible and compelling Very Short Introduction, Richard English explores the assumptions we make about modern warfare and considers them against the backdrop of their historical reality. 

Drawing on the wide literature available, including direct accounts of the experience of war, English provides an authoritative account of modern war: its origins, evolution, dynamics, and current trends. 

"... what this book achieves would be remarkable in one several times its length... The book as a whole is notable for the careful throught and sound judgement that are on display, with the result that it does not at all feel like a superficial skim over the material." - Political Studies Review, Tim Benbow

"The book as a whole is notable for the careful thought and sound judgement that are on display, with the result that it does not at all feel like a superficial skim over the material." - Tim Benbow, Kings College London/UK Defence Academy, Political Studies Review

"English has developed a cogent and useful introduction to modern war. An understanding of war is a key element of civic education, and English has made the subject accessible. Modern War will be of particular value not just to students but to educators considering how to teach the topics of war and modern military history." - H.R. McMaster, Survival

"Profound thought and a compelling text explain why and how states, societies and peoples resort to "the awfulness of war". English avoids glib generalisations because he knows too much and thinks too deeply. ... Anyone who wants to understand wars and their legacies should read it, twice." - Times Higher Education


List of illustrations and maps
1: What is modern war?
2: What causes modern wars to begin?
3: What has the experience of modern war involved?
4: What have modern wars achieved?
Conclusion: war, terrorism, and the future
Further reading

About the author: 

Richard English is Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Politics in the School of International Relations, at the University of St Andrews. His books have won numerous Awards and include Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (2003), Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland (2006), and Terrorism: How to Respond (2009). He has written and lectured widely on political violence, terrorism, nationalism, and religion, and on Irish and British politics and history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Member of Royal Irish Academy, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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