War is more good than you think, Stanford historian says

04/25/2014 4:00 PM

04/27/2014 9:00 PM

Edwin Starr got it wrong.

War actually is good for something, according to Ian Morris, author of “War! What Is It Good For?”

“Starr was a singer, not a professional historian,” said Morris, a Stanford University history professor who speaks at the Kansas City Public Library this week.

Morris’ provocative point is that while war is not good at all for those unlucky enough to be in its path, long-term trends — as in centuries long — suggest something else entirely.

“War has made the world a safer and richer place,” he said recently.

By fighting wars, Morris maintains, the world’s residents have created larger, more organized societies that have reduced the risk that their members will die violently.

Beginning about 10,000 years ago, he said, the winners of wars routinely incorporated the losers into larger societies. In turn, the rulers of those societies developed ever-more-elaborate governments to maintain order and keep citizens safer.

“Larger societies have pacified themselves internally,” he said.

“The people who run societies are not trying to make the world a safer place out of the goodness of their hearts. What they want are societies whose members go about their business quietly and pay their taxes.”

Morris has encountered skeptics. He conceded that, over millenia, it likely was no fun at all for those who had the bad luck to be on a conqueror’s to-do list.

“But a couple of centuries later, everyone is safer and more prosperous — both the conqueror and the conquered,” he said.

Morris speaks at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. For more information, go to



Thorpe Menn deadline

A reminder: The nomination deadline for the annual Thorpe Menn Award is June 1.

This year, for the first time, the award guidelines include directions regarding the submissions of e-books.

Such submissions must be submitted in PDF format, and judges must be able to view the submitted e-books on any device.

The award, sponsored by the American Association of University Women’s Kansas City branch and the Kansas City Public Library, will be presented in October to an area author at the Central Library.

Submission guidelines are at

kansascity-mo.aauw.net/events/thorpe-menn-literary-award/. Those with further questions can email them to lindadaugherty2000@yahoo.com.

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