They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence

A sweeping account of how small wars shaped global order in the age of empires


Feb 13, 2024
6.13 x 9.25 in.
9 b/w illus. 3 maps.
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Imperial conquest and colonization depended on pervasive raiding, slaving, and plunder. European empires amassed global power by asserting a right to use unilateral force at their discretion. They Called It Peace is a panoramic history of how these routines of violence remapped the contours of empire and reordered the world from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries.

In an account spanning from Asia to the Americas, Lauren Benton shows how imperial violence redefined the very nature of war and peace. Instead of preparing lasting peace, fragile truces insured the easy return to war. Serial conflicts and armed interventions projected a de facto state of perpetual war across the globe. Benton describes how seemingly limited war sparked atrocities, from sudden massacres to long campaigns of dispossession and extermination. She brings vividly to life a world in which warmongers portrayed themselves as peacemakers and Europeans imagined “small” violence as essential to imperial rule and global order.

Holding vital lessons for us today, They Called It Peace reveals how imperial violence of the past has made perpetual war and the threat of atrocity endemic features of the international order.