The best books on the economics of conflict and peace

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many people, I am deeply troubled by the death and destruction from violent conflict. When I began my graduate work in economics at Cornell University, I was allowed to apply my economics learning to the problem of war. When I began teaching at Holy Cross College, my colleagues encouraged me to offer courses on the economics of war and peace. After many years of teaching, I compiled Principles of Conflict Economics (with John Carter) to serve as a textbook on economic aspects of conflict. I hope the book might encourage other economics professors and students to learn more about war and how to resolve conflicts nonviolently.

I wrote...

Book cover of Principles of Conflict Economics: The Political Economy of War, Terrorism, Genocide, and Peace

What is my book about?

Headline stories of nation-state hostilities, civil wars, terrorism, genocides, and drug cartel fighting document the prevalence of violence as a distressing fact of life. Economics textbooks typically restrict their attention to the peaceful behavior of consumers, producers, and governments in the marketplace.

Principles of Conflict Economics, however, explores economic aspects of conflict and how such knowledge can help policymakers promote nonviolent solutions to disputes and healthy economic outcomes. The book offers intuitive summaries and accessible models of both new and seminal economics-related scholarship on well-established areas such as war, terrorism, and arms racing and under-researched areas including genocide, family aspects of war, and peacebuilding. A novel feature of the book is the integration of economics with social psychological and identity perspectives on conflict and peace.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

Charles H. Anderton Why did I love this book?

I learned much about the causes of violence in human relations from this book’s compelling explanations of how peaceful negotiations can break down, thus leading to war.

I appreciated the book’s wide-ranging applicability, which included interstate and civil wars, but also “wars” involving drug cartels, gangs, and other factions. As an economist, Blattman’s coverage of economic aspects of war and peace shines throughout the book, and his rich multidisciplinary perspectives nicely round out his analysis.

I especially like the book’s intuitive coverage of historical examples of how peace can slip away, as well as lessons learned that can aid in future efforts to avoid war.

By Christopher Blattman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why We Fight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Why We Fight  reflects Blattman’s expertise in economics, political science, and history… Blattman is a great storyteller, with important insights for us all.” —Richard H. Thaler, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and coauthor of Nudge

“Engaging and profound, this deeply searching book explains the true origins of warfare, and it illustrates the ways that, despite some contrary appearances, human beings are capable of great goodness.”—Nicholas A. Christakis author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Why did Russia attack Ukraine? Will China invade Taiwan and launch WWIII? Why has the number of civil wars…

Book cover of The Political Economy of Terrorism

Charles H. Anderton Why did I love this book?

I learned a great deal from this book’s insightful and wide-ranging coverage of the motives of terrorists; economic, political, and social causes and effects of terrorism; and government and private-sector counterterrorism efforts.

I especially like the book’s accessible coverage of leading research results in the field including risk factors for terrorism and conundrums associated with policy efforts to stymie terrorism. I loved how the book offered a fruitful blend of theoretical models, data trends, empirical results, and policy perspectives.

The authors are economists, so the book is strongly economic in approach, yet multidisciplinary perspectives are richly woven into the chapters, giving rise to a true “political economy” of terrorism.

By Walter Enders, Todd Sandler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Political Economy of Terrorism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Political Economy of Terrorism presents a widely accessible political economy approach to the study of terrorism. It applies economic methodology - theoretical and empirical - combined with political analysis and realities to the study of domestic and transnational terrorism. In so doing, the book provides both a qualitative and quantitative investigation of terrorism in a balanced up-to-date presentation that informs students, policy makers, researchers and the general reader of the current state of knowledge. Included are historical aspects, a discussion of watershed events, the rise of modern-day terrorism, examination of current trends, the dilemma of liberal democracies, evaluation of…

Book cover of Peace Economics: A Macroeconomic Primer for Violence-afflicted States

Charles H. Anderton Why did I love this book?

I especially like how this book powerfully demonstrates that economists should care deeply about violent conflicts because of the severe harms that violence inflicts on economies (and ultimately people) in both the short- and long-run.

The book also persuasively shows that peace advocates should seriously consider economics in their work because conflict prevention must get the economic policies right to avoid the outbreak (or renewal) of violence.

I felt that the book succeeded wonderfully as a primer by explaining important economic concepts in layperson terms, applying economic concepts to violence and peace issues across a wide range of countries (including in several mini case studies), and highlighting economics policies that promote long-term growth and development, macroeconomic stability, and stable peace.

By Jurgen Brauer, J. Paul Dunne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Peace Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Creating sound economic policy and a stable macroeconomic framework is essential to societies recovering from violent conflict, yet few practitioners have the background needed to apply economic concepts effectively. To provide practitioners with a concise but broad overview of macroeconomic fundamentals as they touch on violence afflicted states, Brauer and Dunne have created Peace Economics. Filling a gap in the literature on peace design from an economic perspective, Peace Economics extends beyond economic principles into the wider realm of social reconstitution, social contract, and social capital in the hopes of helping practitioners build a more stable peace. Peace Economics is…

Book cover of Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster, and the Global Aid Market

Charles H. Anderton Why did I love this book?

I especially like how this book widens the scope of analysis of humanitarian responses to include both human-made disasters (e.g., war, genocide, terrorism) and natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, cyclones).

I learned much from the author’s multidisciplinary perspectives on the economics of humanitarianism based on his decades-long policy experiences in humanitarian aid and development.

I found several chapters in the book to be unique or rarely found elsewhere including “The Humanitarian Market” (covering data and perspectives on the supply and demand of humanitarian aid), “Survival Economics” (covering the deep needs of individuals and families living through disasters), and “The Transformative Power of Humanitarian Crises” (on how disasters can be springboards for institutional reform and long-term development).

By Gilles Carbonnier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Humanitarian Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While the booming humanitarian sector faces daunting challenges, humanitarian economics emerges as a new field of study and practice--one that encompasses the economics and political economy of war, disaster, terrorism and humanitarianism. Carbonnier's book is the first to present humanitarian economics to a wide readership, defining its parameters, explaining its utility and convincing us why it matters. Among the issues he discusses are: how are emotions and altruism incorporated within a rational-choice framework? How do the economics of war and terrorism inform humanitarians' negotiations with combatants, and shed light on the role of aid in conflict? What do catastrophe bonds…

Book cover of Models of Society and Complex Systems

Charles H. Anderton Why did I love this book?

I appreciated how this book took on the challenge of applying advanced mathematical modeling and simulation techniques to gain new insights into the social evolution of norms and institutions in societies, which is a critical topic in many fields, including conflict and peace economics.

I learned much from the book’s coverage of selected conflict and peace topics such as riots, revolutions, the 2010 Arab Spring movement, and the social evolution of cooperation. I especially like how the mathematical models in the book are described intuitively using wonderfully imaginative diagrams.

In this way, both the mathematically and non-mathematically inclined can come away with a richer understanding of human behavior in dynamically changing social systems.

By Sebastian Ille,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Models of Society and Complex Systems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Models of Society and Complex Systems introduces readers to a variety of different mathematical tools used for modelling human behaviour and interactions, and the complex social dynamics that drive institutions, conflict, and coordination. What laws govern human affairs? How can we make sense of the complexity of societies and how do individual actions, characteristics, and beliefs interact? Social systems follow regularities which allow us to answer these questions using different mathematical approaches.

This book emphasises both theory and application. It systematically introduces mathematical approaches, such as evolutionary and spatial game theory, social network analysis, agent-based modelling, and chaos theory. It…

You might also like...

Empire's Daughter

By Marian L Thorpe,

Book cover of Empire's Daughter

Marian L Thorpe Author Of Empress & Soldier

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Birder Traveller Amateur landscape historian Reader

Marian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Lena thinks she knows her future: in her small village, nothing much has changed for two hundred years. Women farm and fish, plant and harvest: a cooperative, productive, peaceful life. Until the day a soldier rides in, to ask the unthinkable of the women: learn to fight. Invasion is imminent, and the men alone cannot defeat them.

Maya, Lena’s partner, refuses. Going against the collective decision of the village means banishment. Will Lena decide to defend her home, or go with her love?

Journey with Lena as she makes this terrible choice, setting her feet on a path towards a…

Empire's Daughter

By Marian L Thorpe,

What is this book about?

"Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay will love Thorpe's work." Anya Pavelle

A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree; Eric Hoffer Finalist, 2021; BBNYA 2021 Semi-Finalist

An Emperor's request. A lover's refusal. And a young woman who must choose between them.

Many generations past, the great empire from the east left Lena's country to its own defences. Now invasion threatens...and to save their land, women must learn the skills of war. But in a world reminiscent of Britain after the fall of Rome, only men fight; women farm and fish. Lena's choice to answer her leader's call to arms separates her from her lover…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in war, economics, and violence?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about war, economics, and violence.

War Explore 1,921 books about war
Economics Explore 392 books about economics
Violence Explore 93 books about violence