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Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195340112
ISBN-10: 0195340116
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Day (Claiming a Continent) surveys the justifications that nations have offered for conquering other peoples, and lays out the process of claiming a territory by a symbolic act like planting a flag, then by mapping the land and naming it. Many of his examples are familiar—the Spanish in Central and South America, the Germans in Eastern Europe. But he includes less familiar instances, such as Japan's 18th-century takeover of the Ainu culture on the island of Hokkaido and the contest between the Dutch, French and English to claim Australia. As interesting as Day's stories are, he comes up short on interpretation and analysis. Much more could have been made, for example, of the impact of population pressures. And the book lacks almost any examples of conquests in the ancient world, a striking omission when one considers that modern nations have looked to Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome for models in their own empire building. Nevertheless, history buffs' curiosity will be piqued by Day's accounts of lesser known conquests. Maps. (June)
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Review


"Full of interesting facts and thoughts.... This is a book imbued with fine scholarship, but one that deserves a wide readership.... Day has an unfailing eye for vivid, arresting avidence."--Times Literary Supplement


"The virtue of Day's book is to bring together wide-ranging examples of conquest in a well-defined argument. It is well expressed and deserves attention. The volume is an important contribution to the ongoing debate on empires and colonies in the various fields that examine this subject such as history, literature, ethnology, law and politics." --European History Quarterly


"Day's provocative and well-written book will require readers in many countries around the globe to come to grips with equally grim and brutal aspects of their history, and that alone makes it a study well worth reading and discussing...This reviewer consequently recommends Conquest highly and looks forward to the debate." --Technology and Culture


"Conquest is an extremely challenging book, particularly for those in 'new world' countries such as Australia and the USA, as it confronts many of the underlying assumptions regarding national identity and legitimacy of tenure." --Teacher


"[Day] sweeps expertly and effortlessly across the globe and into the pages of history to back up his arguments...[Conquest] is as much thought-provoking as it is uncomfortable reading." --Herald Sun


"David Day has written a fascinating account of the way nations have always moved into other people's countries and taken over as the dominant culture. This is still happening of course, as with China and Tibet, and Day ranges over an extraordinary historical panorama to show how universal the practice has been." --Newcastle Herald


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195340116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195340112
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,449,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Konrad Baumeister VINE VOICE on April 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The history of the world's peoples is the history of the movement of those people, that movement inevitably resulting in conflict between peoples, and eventually nationalities/nations, over land and resources they both want. Sometimes the conflicts have been remarkably one-sided, at other times the pendulum has swung back and forth for centuries. Day examines the tools groups use to make their claims look legitimate, reasonable and legal; what happens when these claims are sometimes disputed or ignored; and the techniques used to try to make these claims permanent and lasting.

Claims by exploration or discovery needed to be reinforced by settlement; that settlement must be justified as improving either the local population in some way (morally, religiously, 'civilizing'), or the land (tilling, maximizing the return from the land in a way the aboriginal population did not); and if it is to be defended, it must be peopled, language and culture and legend and beliefs must all reflect the newly dominant culture. In the event of serious conflict, supplanting groups use various levels of force to resolve the issue, right up to the point of ethnic cleansing or genocide.

Day's book uses a number of examples, essentially tracking a few examples throughout the book, showing how all of these points applied in practice. These examples include the settlement of Australia, the North American continent, Russian Siberia, the northern now-Japanese island of Hokkaido, the Spanish conquest of the New World, and nation-building in post-Dutch Indonesia, among others.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book of academic historiography, and, as such, it is structured around a central theme rather than a chronological narrative. This hurts the readability of the book and is only passably, not well, done. That central theme is how societies overwhelm others. Each chapter focuses on one tool such societies use to supplant the existing society, such as renaming landmarks, mapping the land, and settling it. Unfortunately, the chapters consist primarily of a litany of examples, in no particular order, only tied to each other through the subject of the chapter. It makes for a very dull reading experience.

Despite the large volume of examples used and the stated universality of his thesis, Day draws far too heavily from just a handful of sources, namely European colonial powers, Japan, WWII-era Germany, and Israel. Day's decision to discuss Israel and WWII-era Germany in almost the same breath, then a few pages later downplay the Holocaust, looks particularly odd. These are perfectly valid examples, as are those drawn from colonialism, but Day's selections undercut his thesis that these methods are universal and instead give the impression he chose to improperly introduce an editorial slant. An academic historian should be careful to avoid advocacy of a normative position, even implied advocacy. Given the choices Day makes, a statement on the moral equivalency or lack thereof is demanded but not given.

I also found it rather strange that Day chose to include a discussion on the inadvertent spread of disease in the chapter on genocide. First, there are obvious differences between conscious genocide and accidental epidemics.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book, it was well researched, and had tons of interesting facts about multiple points in history. I really enjoyed his segments about the Japanese takeover of the Ainu people's land of Hokkaido. If you are interested in reading about countries taking over other countries, or indigenous lands, this is the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
David Day's very readable and well researched work examines how societies overwhelm others; presenting the various steps taken by the conquerors to establish themselves as the legitimate owners of conquered territory and the steps taken against the indigenous population.

The book as a whole provides the overall framework of conquest while each chapter examines the specific steps taken by conquering societies: staking claims on `newly discovered' territory, mapping these new territories, naming them, supplanting the native populations, the right to land via conquest, defending territory, foundation stories, improving the land via farming and infrastructure, and genocide (in all its forms either via ethnic cleansings, denying the existence of ethnic minorities, and outright killing etc)

To support his work, Day uses several examples from the Norman invasion of England to the Japanese treatment of the Ainu of Hokkaido, and numerous others in between and beyond. As Day notes the same steps can be seen being taken by societies well before the Normans and even into the present day but limits his examples to a few key societies and limits mentions of others. His examples illustrate his case well, although the referral to the same societies in each chapter does feel a little repetitive in places.

Throughout the work and in his conclusion the point is well made that, while bloody and destructive, the various conquests of societies of the last two millennia and beyond is just one chapter in the never ending migration story of the human race across the earth. The final paragraphs provide a forecast for the future: the continual movement of people across the planet in search of a better life, work, farmable land etc albeit in a less bloody manner due to the process of globalization and relaxing of national borders in places like Europe as nationalism fades away.
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