Why We Fight

Mike Martin

A rollercoaster ride through genetics, psychology and the history of war, searching for the reasons behind our impulse to violence.

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Why We Fight Hardback
May 2018£20.00

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Why are we willing to die for our countries? Does religion precipitate violence? Do pride, anger and vengeance lead to war? Can ideology persuade someone to blow themselves up?

This ground-breaking book explores how tens of thousands of years of evolution have shaped our brains to fight, and not to fight. Drawing on insights gleaned as a soldier and a scholar, and a biologist, Mike Martin explains how the lives and deaths of our ancestors have shaped our behaviour to propel us towards conflict, even as that option makes less and less sense.

Why We Fight highlights the continuums between animal and human individual violence and explains how mankind has massively reduced the preponderance of warfare by creating larger and larger social groups. Together, these arguments form a compelling demonstration of humans’ evolutionary predisposition to warfare, rooted in a prehistoric past when going to war actually increased your chances of survival.

Our contemporary world is marked by the disintegration of social groups, which inevitably increases the likelihood of conflict — yet, Martin concludes, humans may still ultimately outlive warfare altogether, consigning it to history.


Mike Martin is a former British Army officer who has worked, travelled and lived all over the world in order to try and understand conflict. His previous books include A Brief History of Helmand, and An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict. His Crossing the Congo:  Over Land and Water in a Hard Place, was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award 2016 in the category of Adventure Travel. Educated in biology and conflict, he is a War Studies Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London.

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