The Shortest History of War

Gwynne Dyer
The Shortest History of War

In this addition to the bestselling ‘shortest history’ series, acclaimed historian and military expert Gwynne Dyer tells the story of war from its prehistoric – perhaps pre-human – origins up to the present age of algorithms and atom bombs.
Dyer chronicles the spread of warfare in the first cities; the inexorable rise of inequality and tyranny as human societies grow; the millennium-long classical age of combat ended by the carnage of the Thirty Years’ War; and the brief ensuing interlude of ‘limited war’ before the popular revolutions of the 18th century ushered in an era of total war – itself abruptly halted by Hiroshima.

The final chapters deal with the precarious equilibrium of the past 75 years – the longest period of peace between major powers in modern history – and the looming threats of nuclear proliferation, superpower rivalry and climate change.

This vivid, clear-sighted book is vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the role of war in the long human story: why we do it – and how we can stop.

‘It’s a brave author who aims to condense a historical subject down into a slim volume, let alone one as depressingly extensive as human conflict… From the first armies to clashes of drones and ‘dirty bombs’, this is eye-opening, big-picture stuff’ BBC History

‘Readable and sharp… does what it says on the tin’ Independent ‘Book of the Month’

Dyer writes with eloquence and authority… particularly effective in painting in broad strokes the evolution of warfare’ Irish Examiner 

‘Entirely convincing’ Publishers Weekly


  • Old Street Publishing UK
  • Experiment Publishing USA
  • Arab Network for Research and Publishing
  • Papadopoulos Publishing Greece
  • Tchelet Books Israel
  • Hayakawa Japan
  • Presenca Portugal
  • Phoenix Russia
  • Antoni Bosch Editor Spain

Material: Finished copies (239pp)