In The Better Angels of Our Nature Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker argued that modern history has witnessed a dramatic decline in human violence of every kind, and that in the present we are experiencing the most peaceful time in human history. But what do top historians think about Pinker's reading of the past? Does his argument stand up to historical analysis?
In The Darker Angels of our Nature, fifteen historians of international stature evaluate Pinker's arguments and find them lacking. Studying the history of violence from Soviet Russia to Native America, Medieval England and the Imperial Middle East, these scholars debunk the myth of non-violent modernity. Asserting that the real story of human violence is richer, more interesting and incomparably more complex than Pinker's sweeping, simplified narrative, this book tests, and bests, 'fake history' with expert knowledge.
Table of Contents:
List of Contributors
List of Illustrations
1. Steven Pinker and the Nature of Violence in History
Philip Dwyer and Mark Micale
Part One: Interpretations
2. The Inner Demons of The Better Angels of Our Nature
3. The Use and Abuse of Statistics in Writing the History of Violence
4. Progress and Its Contradictions: Human Rights, Inequality, and Violence
Eric D. Weitz
5. Pinker's Technocratic Neoliberalism, and Why It Matters
6. Steven Pinker, Norbert Elias and the 'Civilizing Process'
Philip Dwyer and Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen
Part Two: Periods
7. Steven Pinker's 'Prehistoric Anarchy': A Bioarchaeological Critique
8. Getting Medieval on Steven Pinker: Violence and Medieval England
Sara M. Butler
9. History, Violence and the Enlightenment
Part Three: Places
10. The Complexity of History: Russia and Steven Pinker's Thesis
11. Necrology of Angels: Violence in Japanese History as a Lens of Critique
12. The 'Moral Effect' of Legalized Lawlessness: British Imperial Violence and the Middle East
Part Four: Themes
13. A History of Violence and Indigeneity: Pinker and the Native Americas
14. The Rise and Rise of Sexual Violence
15. The Better Angels of Which Nature? Violence and Environmental History in the Modern World
16. On Cool Reason and Hot-Blooded Impulses? Violence and the History of Emotion
Susan K. Morrissey
Part Five: Coda
17. Pinker and Contemporary Historical Consciousness
About the Editors:
Philip Dwyer studied in Perth (Australia), Berlin and Paris, where he was a student of France's pre-eminent Napoleonic scholar, Jean Tulard. He has published widely on the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, and is Director of the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
Mark Micale is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, USA. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Beyond the Unconscious; Discovering the History of Psychiatry; Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930; The Mind of Modernism: Medicine, Psychology, and the Cultural Arts in Europe and America, 1880-1940; and Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness.