Violence and Conflict
Dystopian future and a violent past: John Lanchester, Patricia Lewis, Richard Wrangham and Eleanor Robson with Amol Rajan
The prize-winning writer John Lanchester considers the political endgame of a fractious world in his new novel, The Wall. He tells Amol Rajan why he has written a dystopian fable in which the young distrust the old, and the world appears broken.
But just how violent are we as a species? The primatologist Richard Wrangham believes there is a 'goodness paradox': at an individual level we have evolved to become a more peaceful animal, especially compared to our closest relatives, the chimpanzee; but our ability to organise and plan an attack has made us lethal.
The ancient Assyrians celebrated every detail of cruelty, massacre and torture, including skinning prisoners alive, as they built their empire and conquered their enemies. The academic Eleanor Robson looks back at the reign of the King Ashurbanipal from the 7th century BC, immortalised in an exhibition at the British Museum.
Shortly after the King’s death the Empire fell. Dr Patricia Lewis is an expert on international security and studies the ebb and flow of wars across the world from chemical warfare to cyber-attacks. She looks ahead to the major conflicts to watch in the coming year.
The above image is from the British Museum’s exhibition I Am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria
Producer: Katy Hickman
British Museum Exhibition
The Wall is published by Faber
The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution is published by Profile Books
Dr Lewis is chairing a discussion, Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2019, with Robert Malley, President & CEO, International Crisis Group, at Chatham House on 17th January.