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Price: $34.95

Hardback 304 pp.
8 b/w plates, 138 mm x 216 mm



Publication date:
February 2012

Imprint: OUP UK

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The Glorious Art of Peace

From the Iliad to Iraq

John Gittings

Human progress and prosperity depend on a peaceful environment, and most people have always sought to live in peace, yet our perception of the past is dominated too often by a narrative that is obsessed with war. In this ground breaking study, former Guardian journalist John Gittings demolishes the myth that peace is dull and that war is in our genes, and opens an alternative window on history to show the strength of the case for peace which has been argued from ancient times onwards.

Beginning with a new analysis of the treatment of peace in Homer's Iliad, he explores the powerful arguments against war made by classical Chinese and Greek thinkers, and by the early Christians. Gittings urges us to pay more attention to Erasmus on the Art of Peace, and less to Machiavelli on the Art of War. The significant shift in Shakespeare's later plays towards a more peace-oriented view is also explored.

Gittings traces the growth of the international movement for peace from the Enlightenment to the present day, and assesses the inspirational role of Tolstoy and Gandhi in advocating non-violence. Bringing the story into the twentieth century, he shows how the League of Nations in spite of its "failure" led to high hopes for a stronger United Nations, but that real chances for peace were missed in the early years of the cold war.

And today, as we approach the centenary of the First World War, Gittings argues that, instead of being obsessed by a new war on terror, we should be focusing our energies on seeking peaceful solutions to the challenges of nuclear proliferation, conflict and extremism, poverty and inequality, and climate change.

Readership : All those interested in the history of international relations, peace studies, and philosophical arguments for peace from the ancient world to the present day.


  • "An urgent, lucid, and perceptive account of a subject which remains sadly neglected in favour of the study of war."

    --Charles Townshend, editor of The Oxford History of Modern War

  • "This is a marvellous book combining a remarkable historical perspective with a real sense of current predicaments. John Gittings brings a breadth of knowledge and understanding into the interpretation of peace that provides a much-needed antidote to the emphasis on conflict that is currently so pervasive. In doing so, he achieves the rare feat of combining a hard-headed approach to the issues with a sense of optimism that is rooted in experience. A hugely welcome addition to the literature on peace, and of great value to scholar, student or activist - indeed anyone committed to seeking a more peaceful world."

    --Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

  • "Magisterial... Impressive..."

    --David Rennie, Daily Telegraph

  • "The best single-volume history of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to the present"

    --Rana Mitter, Oxford University, award-winning author of A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World

  • "Contains a wealth of information and is certainly a good counterweight to recent books which emphasise Mao's personality as the key to China's history in the 20th Century... the history of modern China is an epic one, told superbly by Gittings"


1. The Perception of Peace and War
2. Ancient Peace: From Homer to the Hundred Schools
3. The Morality of Peace: from Jesus to the Crusades
4. The Humanist Approach: Erasmus and Shakespeare
5. The Growth of Peace Consciousness: From Kant to The Hague
6. Alternatives to War: The League of Nations and Non-Violence
7. The Misappropriation of Peace: From the UN to the Cold War
8. Giving Peace a Chance: From the Cold War to Iraq
Conclusion: Peace in the 21st Century
Select Bibliography

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John Gittings was for many years chief foreign leader-writer and East Asia Editor at The Guardian, and is now on the editorial board of the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace and a research associate of the Centre of Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental & African Studies. After working at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, he began reporting on China during the Cultural Revolution, and later covered major events such as Tiananmen Square and the Hong Kong handover. He has also written extensively on the politics of the cold war and was active in the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace. His last book was The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (2005), also published by Oxford University Press.

Special Features

  • The first comprehensive history of the arts of peace, from ancient times to the 21st century.
  • Explodes the myth that peace is dull and war is somehow in our genes.
  • Introduces arguments for peace from the ancient Greeks and Chinese onwards, to Erasmus, Shakespeare, and the thinkers of the Enlightenment.
  • Final chapter looks forward to the prospects for peace in the 21st century.