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From Rome to Rwanda: The Centuries-Long Effort to Define Civil War

A new book by Harvard historian David Armitage unearths two millennia of thinking about a most ignoble type of war.

Image of Romulus and Remus on a coin

If you live in a developed country, you are among those enjoying the “Long Peace,” a period marked by the absence of large scale interstate war since the end of 1945. It is the longest period of such calm in modern history. During this same time period, however, the world’s pockets of conflict have moved away from the frontiers and turned, instead, inward. 

“The Long Peace stands under a dark shadow—the shadow of civil war,” writes Harvard historian and Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate David Armitage, whose new book, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas tracks the evolution of human understanding of civil war over two millennia.

Veganism: An Elegant Solution to a Host of Global Problems?

Based on the “speed talk” Nina Gheihman presented at Global Food Plus 2017, February 24, 2017, which was recorded live on Facebook.

Image of Nina Gheihman

The year 2016 was hailed the “Year of Veganism.”[1] In the last year alone, Google searches for the term “vegan” increased by 32 percent; the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen in the same class as cigarettes[2]; and a survey by Nutrition Business Journal found that more than a third of people consume dairy and meat alternatives regularly.[3] While many people still see veganism—the non-consumption of products derived from animals—as an extreme cultural practice, it is clear that veganism is no longer a marginalized social movement. This brings up the intriguing sociological question: How does a fringe cultural practice become mainstream?

Elite Cues or Social Cues? The Formation of Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

A new study challenges long-held beliefs about what influences the public’s positions on foreign policy.

Image of people forming the shape of a person

In July 2014, a wave of violence erupted in the Middle East, as Israel responded to a barrage of rockets from Gaza by launching airstrikes, and eventually, a ground incursion intent on degrading Hamas’s military capabilities. In Washington, both Democrats and Republicans firmly sided with Israel: the Senate passed a unanimous resolution blaming Hamas for the conflict, and both prominent Democrats and Republicans gave staunch defenses of Israel’s right to defend itself.  

The Power of Restraint in the “Golden Age” of Arms Control: A Tribute to Thomas C. Schelling

Image of Thomas Schelling teaching at Harvard

Thomas Schelling’s passing last month represents a great loss to many in this community and beyond. He leaves a remarkably rich intellectual legacy. Among his many achievements, Schelling’s influence on the theory and practice of arms control cannot be overstated. He produced his seminal works on the subject—Strategy and Arms Control, published with Morton Halperin in 1961, and Arms and Influence, published in 1966—during his twelve years in residence at the Center for International Affairs (1959–1971). I had the pleasure of spending time with Professor Schelling at his home in Bethesda while researching my book on the history of the Center in 2005. Two things stood out from that conversation then, and perhaps even more so now in retrospect. First, Schelling was deeply committed to policy-relevant research, and his long life of work reflects that fact. Secondly—and relatedly—his work on the efficacy and control of nuclear weapons remains a singular benchmark for research in the field and a profoundly erudite and intelligent guide for today’s policy makers, just as it was for their predecessors some sixty years ago.

The Complex Ties between Poverty and Exclusion

Conference theme quotation

To what extent does poverty contribute to social exclusion? How can the exclusion of particular groups be reduced?

These were just two of the questions scholars addressed at the Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication Workshop on November 17–18, 2016, a two-day event co-sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Center for European Studies, and the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP). The conference was convened by Weatherhead Center Director Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and professor of sociology and of African and African American studies at Harvard University; and Hilary Silver, professor of sociology and urban studies and professor of public policy at Brown University.

The Lines We Draw Between Us

Harvard historian Charles Maier explores the boundaries that separate and bind societies throughout modern history.

Image of Charles Maier

To read Charles Maier’s latest book, Once Within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging Since 1500, is to take a bird’s-eye-view journey through five centuries of geopolitical history, to witness how societies have regarded and apportioned space on our planet.

As concepts of boundaries and territories are being reconceptualized in the twenty-first century, the notion of what it means to be part of a particular society takes on new dimensions. For most of us, traditional concepts of nation, state, and territory remain deeply ingrained in our sense of self and belonging. In his book, Maier takes readers on a meditative journey through the “fitful evolution of territorial organization,” and reflects on how science and technology have expanded our conceptualization of space, authority, and sovereignty. Once Within Borders invites us to step back and consider the many ways in which human societies have claimed borders and territories to consolidate power, wealth, and group affiliation—and how those borders have shaped our consciousness through time. The Weatherhead Center engaged Charles Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University, in a discussion about the value of borders in today’s networked world.

The World That Awaits President-Elect Trump

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked five of its faculty to outline the most pressing global challenges that Donald Trump will face when he takes office in 2017.

World map with various regions highlighted

During the 2016 primaries, Donald Trump claimed he had more foreign policy experience than any of the GOP contenders. In fact, he has traveled widely to meet with presidents, prime ministers, financiers, and developers over the past decade as part of his highly profitable business of licensing the Trump name to large real estate developments around the world. On the campaign trail, Trump’s provocative statements about foreign policy have become part of the public record. From pressuring NAFTA members to bombing ISIS, his pledges have caused a stir in the arena of foreign relations. Publicly, candidate Trump threatened to close borders to Mexicans, slap tariffs on Chinese goods, restrict Muslims in the United States, among other vows. Without a record of public service to draw on, it is difficult to know how these declarations might translate into a Trump foreign policy. To understand what lies ahead for the new president, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked its Faculty Associates in international relations to comment on the challenges and opportunities that await in five regions of the world: Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Latin America, Europe, and China.

New Initiative on Afro-Latin American Studies Awarded

Image of Professors de la Fuente, Sommer, and Carrasco

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs recently awarded $250,000 to fund a new Weatherhead Initiative in Afro-Latin American Studies. The Center funds the initiative through its Weatherhead Initiative Research Cluster in International Affairs grant, which supports large-scale and groundbreaking research in the realm of international affairs.

Three Harvard investigators will spearhead this new initiative: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, professor of African and African American studies, and director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute; Doris Sommer, Ira and Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and professor of African and African American studies; and Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America and director of the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project. These researchers will bring together both scholars and students to develop Afro-Latin American studies at Harvard.

The Upside of Nationalism: Politics for the Common Good in India

In her new book, political scientist Prerna Singh considers why some states develop more inclusive welfare policies and deliver better social outcomes.

Map of India

“The quality of life that a person leads,” writes Prerna Singh, “depends critically on where she leads it.” How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India is at its core an unpacking of that sentence and its implications for international development. Why do some states in India deliver better schools and health care systems than others?

Cross-National Responses to Discrimination: A Q&A with Michèle Lamont

Image of Michele Lamont


Racism and discrimination are daily realities for members of marginalized groups. But what does it look like at the ground level, and how do individuals from various groups and countries respond to such experiences? Drawing on more than 400 in-depth interviews with middle class and working class men and women residing in the multi-ethnic suburbs of New York, Rio, and Tel Aviv, and representing five different racial “groups,” a team of sociologists examine how people deal with and make sense of the various forms of exclusion that are ever present in their lives.

Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil & Israel opens up many new perspectives on the comparative analysis of race and identity.