The Origins of Major War

The Origins of Major War

by Dale C. Copeland
     
 

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One of the most important questions of human existence is what drives nations to war-especially massive, system-threatening war. Much military history focuses on the who, when, and where of war. In this riveting book, Dale C. Copeland brings attention to bear on why governments make decisions that lead to, sustain, and intensify conflicts.

Copeland presents

Overview

One of the most important questions of human existence is what drives nations to war-especially massive, system-threatening war. Much military history focuses on the who, when, and where of war. In this riveting book, Dale C. Copeland brings attention to bear on why governments make decisions that lead to, sustain, and intensify conflicts.

Copeland presents detailed historical narratives of several twentieth-century cases, including World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. He highlights instigating factors that transcend individual personalities, styles of government, geography, and historical context to reveal remarkable consistency across several major wars usually considered dissimilar. The result is a series of challenges to established interpretive positions and provocative new readings of the causes of conflict.

Classical realists and neorealists claim that dominant powers initiate war. Hegemonic stability realists believe that wars are most often started by rising states. Copeland offers an approach stronger in explanatory power and predictive capacity than these three brands of realism: he examines not only the power resources but the shifting power differentials of states. He specifies more precisely the conditions under which state decline leads to conflict, drawing empirical support from the critical cases of the twentieth century as well as major wars spanning from ancient Greece to the Napoleonic Wars.

Editorial Reviews

Choice
Political scientists will appreciate the overview of the realist approach to the outbreak of war.
Virginia Quarterly Review
The Origins of Major War is arguably the best statement on the causes of great power conflict in a generation. Copeland's argument is elegant and far-reaching...This work will stand as the most powerful realist statement on the causes of war for some time and should be read by all students of international politics and those who wonder what lies ahead for the United States should it experience a decline in power.
From the Publisher

"Theoretically ambitious and historically rich, this book synthesizes realist thinking about the origins of great-power wars. . . . Copeland ably shows how great-power leaders think about and respond to changing power disparities."—Foreign Affairs

"The Origins of Major War is arguably the best statement on the causes of great power conflict in a generation. Copeland's argument is elegant and far-reaching. . . . This work will stand as the most powerful realist statement on the causes of war for some time and should be read by all students of international politics and those who wonder what lies ahead for the United States should it experience a decline in power."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"The Origins of Major War is a deeply penetrating, extraordinarily wide-ranging, and judicious treatment of the onset of major conflict, and it offers an explanation and some evidence for the relationship between power differentials and major power conflict. Copeland provides a dynamic theory of major power war, building upon classic realism. In my view, his diagnosis and combination of prescription are substantially correct. . . . Copeland provides an elegant theory of major power war and evaluates it with several interesting case studies."—American Political Science Review

"Copeland's theories—not to mention his history lessons—provide a valuable framework for anyone trying to understand how any nation could willingly initiate something as catastrophic as all-out war."—National Journal

"This is an important and provocative piece of work. Copeland's fundamental argument about the extraordinary importance of the changing military balance is developed with great skill and intelligence, and his use of the historical sources was particularly impressive. This book is a wonderful example of international relations research at its best, and it is remarkably well-written to boot."—Marc Trachtenberg, UCLA

"In The Origins of Major War, Dale C. Copeland presents an innovative theory of the causes of major war and provides powerful and sometimes provocative interpretations of the most important international crises of the twentieth century. This is a model of how to integrate theory and history in ways that enhance both, and is essential reading for all serious students of international conflict."—Jack S. Levy, Rutgers University

"Dale C. Copeland's The Origins of Major War is a superb book. Through a masterful blending of theoretical modeling and historical analysis, it sheds significant light on the manner in which changes in power relationships among countries may increase the risk of the outbreak of serious war. This book will be of great interest both to political scientists and historians, and it will help shape academic and policy-oriented thinking about the problem of shifts in national power and the prospects for world peace for many years to come."—Joseph Grieco, Duke University

"Dale C. Copeland establishes himself as one of the leading international relations scholars with this truly important book, which offers a provocative and sweeping theory on the causes of great power war."—John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801467042
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
02/14/2013
Series:
Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

William Reed
The Origins of Major War is a deeply penetrating, extraordinarily wide-ranging, and judicious treatment of the onset of major conflict, and it offers an explanation and some evidence for the relationship between power differentials and major power conflict. Copeland provides a dynamic theory of major power war, building upon classic realism. In my view, his diagnosis and combination of prescription are substantially correct...Copeland provides an elegant theory of major power war and evaluates it with several interesting case studies.
— William Reed, Michigan State University, American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No. 2, June 1, 2001
G. John Ikenberry
Theoretically ambitious and historically rich, this book synthesizes realist thinking about the origins of great-power wars...Copeland ably shows how great-power leaders think about and respond to changing power disparities.
— G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2001
Brian Schmidt
This is an interesting and important book that makes a considerable contribution not only to international relations theory, but also to understanding some of the possible dynamics of the post-Cold War security system.
— Brian Schmidt, University of Wales, International Affairs, Vol. 77, No. 2, April 2001

Meet the Author

Dale C. Copeland is Associate Professor of International Relations in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia.

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