- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 18, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195119126
- ISBN-13: 978-0195119121
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage Reprint Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service we offer sellers that lets them store their products in Amazon's fulfillment centers, and we directly pack, ship, and provide customer service for these products. Something we hope you'll especially enjoy: FBA items qualify for FREE Shipping and Amazon Prime.
If you're a seller, Fulfillment by Amazon can help you increase your sales. We invite you to learn more about Fulfillment by Amazon .
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"The evidence that Mr. Keeley marshals is vivid, varied, and often complex."--The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Lawrence H. Keeley is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has contributed articles to Scientific American and Nature, and has appeared in documentaries that have run on PBS, The Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his wife and son.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Lawrence H. Keeley's book was written to counter that view and it does so with hard facts and common sense. Not only was the warfare of prehistory often nearly constant; it was extremely violent and vast in its effects. The percentage of a population that could be obliterated was far greater than the percentages resulting from modern, `civilized' warfare.
To tell his story, Keeley utilizes a worldwide canvas, studying warfare from New Guinea to the American northern plains. He discusses the anthropology of war, the prevalence of war and its importance, the tactics and weapons employed in war, the forms of combat, the differences between primitive and civilized war, casualty rates, profits and losses, the potential causes of war, the desirability and fragility of peace and the manner in which the ancient images and ethnographic evidence have been transmuted by contemporary (and earlier) social science. Subsidiary material such as cannibalism is also given due attention.
The book is readable, the evidence compelling. This is a book that should be part of the repertoire of every practicing social scientist and every political commentator. I became aware of it when one of the latter recommended it on a news broadcast. This is not a screed or a half-baked bit of special pleading. This is an extensive, nearly exhaustive Oxford University Press monograph. Check it out.
Now, what professor Keeley did, or better, what he discovered at some moment during the exercise of his career as an archaeologist, was that he was wrong in following the prevalent opinion. In his words: "Like most archaeologists trained in the postwar period, I emerged from the first stage of my education so inculcated with the assumption that warfare and prehistory did not mix that I was willing to dismiss unambiguous 'physical' evidence to the contrary."
After some findings in Stuttgart - Germany that revealed that several "men, women and children," have been "killed by blows to the head inflicted by characteristicly Early Neolithic axes," the prevalent opinion began to stagger. "The resistance," he adds, "that we archaeologists showed to the notion of prehistoric war, and the ease whit which it was overcome when the relevant evidence was recognized, impressed me and convinced me that a book on this subject would be worthwhile."
Thus, after twelve chapters you got everything you need in order to decide what to think. Anyway, the problem with accepting that the epoch we live in right now has been the most pacific of all is really hard to assimilate. Just think about it for a moment and then you can say to yourself "this is impossible." But is it?
Page after page, the author exposes you to the intricacies and multi layered aspects of the human behavior, so the book is more than counting corpses and bones with holes and injury marks in them. In fact, it is about the reason behind our tendency to fight before talking. The impulse that pushes us into fight everywhere and every time. That's why the narration covers a full spectrum that goes from evolution to biology to sociology to politics and the like.
If you are interested in history, in warfare, in topics about violence, aggressiveness, "human condition in extremes," "political intrigues," and so on, this is your book. Also if you want to know about that idealized world that existed before the cities (and the wars between them) destroyed the pastoral landscapes, this is your book.
If you teach or if you study about war or strategy, this is your book also.
You won't forget it for a long time, I guess. In fact I finished the reading some months ago but the book is still with me.
And a final advice: read it after or before "Sex and war" by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden. Both of them are genuine contributions.
Some other reviewers think he should have had more references - but that's absurd. Nearly one third of the pages are notes, references and appendices. This is a serious and well documented book.
Although this book is not very old the idea that hunter-gatherers were peaceful is already out of favor. So in a way the whole purpose of the book is a little obsolete. I can clearly remember when the Maya for example were conceived of as a race of philosophers who sat around in the jungle contemplating the stars and thinking sweet thoughts about life, the nature of man and immortality. But almost no still believes that kind of horse-pucky anymore. Keeley's approach is probably now the mainstream.