The best books on the comparative history of violence

The Books I Picked & Why

Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur

By Ben Kiernan

Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur

Why this book?

This book is the first global history of genocide and is indispensable for understanding the phenomenon of genocide. What is so useful about the book is not merely its broad coverage but Kiernan's masterful analyses of genocides occurring in widely different times and places.


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Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology

By Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Philippe I. Bourgois

Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology

Why this book?

The editors of this volume are two of the most important and influential medical anthropologists in the world and major scholars of violence. In addition to collecting a set of useful texts on violence, the introduction to the volume is a piece of writing that I have returned to many times.


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When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

By Mahmood Mamdani

When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

Why this book?

This influential book on the Rwandan genocide presents a nuanced analysis of how extreme violence can arise in postcolonial contexts. Through this and other writings, Mamdani has made important contributions to the study of violence, imperialism, and postcolonialism.


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Rape: A History From 1860 To The Present

By Joanna Bourke

Rape: A History From 1860 To The Present

Why this book?

This book is one of several by Bourke that are useful for the comparative study of violence, though they are often chilling to read. Bourke has an impressive range as a historian, as well as the tremendous backbone needed to do research on extremely difficult topics.


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Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

By Paul Farmer

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

Why this book?

While Farmer is a physician and anthropologist rather than a historian and these collected essays are not historical in a strict sense, Farmer's account of structural violence is clear, readable, and evocative. An understanding of structural violence is a prerequisite for understanding the phenomenon of violence in any context, present or past.


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