Why We Fight

Mike Martin

A compelling look at the evolutionary psychology of violence and warfare.

Bibliographic Details
Why We Fight Hardback
May 2018£20.00
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Why We Fight Paperback
March 2021£12.99
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Why are we willing to die for our countries? How can ideology persuade someone to blow themselves up?

When we go to war, morality, religion and ideology often take the blame. But Mike Martin boldly argues that the opposite is true: rather than driving violence, these things help to reduce it. While we resort to ideas and values to justify or interpret warfare, something else is really propelling us towards conflict: our subconscious desires, shaped by millions of years of evolution.

Why We Fight will change the way we think about both violence and ourselves. 


Mike Martin is a visiting research fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. A former biology student at Oxford and British Army officer in Afghanistan, he is the author of An Intimate War; and Crossing the Congo, shortlisted for the 2016 Edward Stanford Adventure Travel Writing Award.


‘Fascinating [and] accessible . . . Martin’s enjoyable book makes a positive contribution to a major debate.’ — Prospect

‘[Why We Fight] should be required reading for not just biologists, psychologists and historians, but military leaders and recruiters as well.’ — The British Army Review

Why We Fight is a pivotal book in the study of conflict. It brilliantly deploys recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience to devastating effect. It has radical implications for policies for conflict reduction: identity and status need to supplant interests and ideology as the focal points for change.’ — Sir Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, University of Oxford

‘Anyone interested in war and international relations will find much to challenge and intrigue them in Mike Martin’s application of evolutionary theory to the question of what drives men to fight.’ — Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, author of The Future of War: A History

‘An important and illuminating book that addresses very clearly the fundamental questions underlying the apparent paradoxes of violence and conflict.’ — Patrick Hennessey, author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars

‘This wide-ranging book explores how the evolution of the brain has shaped human behaviour in violence and war. Fascinating and insightful.’ — Stathis Kalyvas, Gladstone Professor of Government, University of Oxford.