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The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order Hardcover – March 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300088663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300088663
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention," claimed Sir Henry Maine in the middle of the 19th century. In his short, polemic book The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order, Michael Howard develops Maine's argument, and while not completely endorsing it, he convincingly argues that peace "is certainly a far more complex affair than war."

At just over a hundred pages, The Invention of Peace is more of an essay than a book, and its massive historical sweep will undoubtedly irritate some readers. Beginning in A.D. 800, when war "was recognized as an intrinsic part of the social order," it extends to 2000, when "militant nationalist movements or conspiratorial ones" suggest that in the near future "armed conflict becomes highly probable." However, Howard's credentials for writing this type of macro reflection on war and international relations are impeccable. Having fought in Italy during the Second World War, he has held several chairs of History and War Studies, and remains the president of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. His many books include War in European History and a translation of von Clausewitz's classic On War.

With such qualifications, it is hardly surprising that Howard remains tied to the beliefs of the European Enlightenment, while also acknowledging that "the peace invented by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, an international order in which war plays no part, had been a common enough aspiration for visionaries throughout history, but it has been regarded by political leaders as a practicable or indeed desirable goal only during the past two hundred years." As Howard thoughtfully picks his way through the complex negotiations throughout European history that led to the brief eruption of peace into an otherwise uninterrupted state of war, he hopes that "Kant was right, and that, whatever else may happen, 'a seed of enlightenment' will always survive." Let's hope that he's right. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

Howard, professor emeritus of military and naval history at Yale (The Lessons of History; etc.), reviews the history of the concept of peace, which he defines as "the order, however imperfect, that results from agreement between states, and can only be sustained by that agreement." For all its brevity, this book is extraordinarily ambitious in scope. Howard's aim is to examine Western political history from the year 800 to the present, extracting from that history the essential views of each era about the role of war among nations and the possibility of achieving peace. Because the treatment of each era is so compressed (the book is an expanded lecture), readers will have to marshal all their knowledge of history to understand the author's points. This is no introductory survey, but rather a work to turn to for a culminating synthesis of its subject. According to Howard, modern concepts of peace derive from the Enlightenment, and especially from Kant's teaching that a stable world order can arise only from forms of government in which the citizens or subjects have some effective say over the making of war. Howard traces how successive models of world order (conservative, liberal, Marxist) have competed for dominance over the past 200 years. The author convincingly demonstrates that the long struggle for stability among nations is not yet over, and that the latest new world order arising after the end of the Cold War still poses as much danger of conflict as it holds out promises of peace.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Valjean on August 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title seems mildly ironic, but the cover (at least of my hardbound edition) dispels any subtlety: a panorama of an American military cemetery (Normandy?) with an endless sea of white crosses. Without delving into the philosophic trenches of why we kill one another, Sir Michael Howard has written a bracing account of the lengths we've gone (and continue to go) to avoid such tragedies. A brisk historical survey serves as both background and provider of his introductory thesis: while peace is new, modern, and barely tested, war is very old, established, and more entrenched than we realize.
Howard's tone throughout remains refreshingly apolitical. He writes as a scholar, deliberately avoiding the easy stridency his subject offers: how *should* we "invent peace?" Where did our ancestors go wrong? Instead, he simply surveys the landscape and allows readers to (gasp!) draw their own conclusions. This is not to suggest the work lacks recommendations; rather, that they appear pithy and well-reasoned, not sonorous and repetitive. Howard could teach his fellow academics a few lessons about writing for an educated popular audience.
Befitting these methods, the book's style is crisp and concise. Quoting one of the author's best points serves as excellent evidence: "World order cannot be created simply by building international institutions and organizations that do not arise naturally out of the cultural disposition and historical experience of their members." Rarely have I seen a better point made in a single sentence; in a seemingly single stroke, Howard crushes the myth that the U.N. (his obvious target) can somehow impose order on unwilling populations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on August 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this short book, Sir Michael Howard, a professor at Yale, discusses the history of peace; starting with a quote from Sir Henry Maine, "War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention," the author narrates how the concept of peace has evolved over time.
The first chapter starts at the crowning of Charlemagne in 800 AD and reaches up to the outbreak of the French Revolution; the second chapter goes up to the end of the Great War; the third chapter discusses the ideological conflicts of the twentieth century up to 1989; and the last chapter outlines some of the author's thoughts on what the future might hold in the quest for peace.
One of the book's drawbacks is that is often assumes prior knowledge: certain historical events are simply mentioned without background information (philosophies and ideologies, on the contrary, are thoroughly explained). A second, and more serious, drawback is the book's inexplicable starting point, with excludes both the Roman Empire and the era of Alexander the Great. Finally, the author has no notes or bibliography; for such a work, a "suggested reading list" or "selected bibliography" would have been greatly appreciated.
Still, the book is splendid and will appeal both to the expert and the layman. And its ultimate message, that peace is neither natural nor guaranteed, should be taken at heart by scholars and politicians alike.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Redwine III on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most important thing for you to know is that yes, peace was invented. It is a relatively new concept that is not clearly defined, and yet we strive for this idea that contradicts essentially all of human history. Michael Howard does a beautiful job of narrating this book, its' brevity hides the true depth of the authors' work. I must wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Erickson on May 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is barely more than a pamphlet-sized survey of world history, from a Eurocentric perspective if only because it aims to trace the roots of modern power underlying the basic paradigms of government and control. Certainly, when it comes to the lenses through which the world views the instruments of authority, the world is now in the grips of Europe's dubious gifts. This book is not so much about political science, although it repeatedly gives Kant, Hegel and others their due credit, as about political engineering: how the ideas of before, during, and after the Enlightenment were applied, and continue to be tried out, by the world powers. He pays particular attention to the revolution in how European people thought about what government means, from the inexorable impressions made by the French Revolution and Napoleon, through the rise of Prussia and the German and Italian nations, to the collapses of world order into the first and second world wars and the Cold War.
Naturally any reasonable thinker could deplore the sweeping generalizations inherent in any condensation of world history and its ideological signposts into 113 ridiculously short pages. Then again, the distillation is potent and leaves a powerful impression, difficult to refute.
Beginning with the American and French Revolutions, a number of different ideas began to be experimented with in alternative to the traditional aristocratic grip on power, with warfare a limited, almost mere game. The defense of such traditionalists fell under the umbrella of the Conservatives.
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