Civil War from Rome to Iraq

David Armitage
24 July, 2008

Why you should listen

David Armiatge

Professor David Armitage is an internationally acclaimed historian and a world expert on empire-building and British history. In this thoughtful and well-researched lecture, the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University turns his attention to the compelling area of civil war, a war he describes as one of the “most ferocious forms of human conflict” in history. “Civil war continues to haunt humanity,” Professor Armitage told his Sydney Ideas audience. But “for all the prevalence, prominence and petulance of civil war, it still remains one of the least investigated species of recurrent human behaviour.” According to Professor Armitage, latest figures show that in 2006 there were 32 civil wars in progress throughout the world. “Their economic impact has been estimated at $US120 billion per annum or more than what the developed world spends on aid to developing countries.” In this lecture, he also takes a look at how civil wars have been politicised in recent history, especially by the Bush administration with its continuing the presence in Iraq. “If the violence amounted to a civil war, then it was a purely internal matter for Iraqis to sort out,” Professor Armitage has said. “Civil war is chaotic, disorganised and uniquely deadly. Above all, it’s someone else’s business.” Professor David Armitage was educated at Cambridge University and Princeton University and taught at Columbia University for 11 years before moving to Harvard in 2004. He is the author of nine books including 2007’s The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, which was chosen as has been chosen as the Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year. His other book, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000) won the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Award. He is currently working on a book about the history of civil war.

“Civil war remains a global scourge and one that shows no sign of disappearing any time soon.” Professor Armitage at Sydney Ideas