In This Review

What Do We Know About Civil Wars?
What Do We Know About Civil Wars?
Edited by T. David Mason and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell
Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, 364 pp

For those who wonder whether all the effort that goes into political science really yields much benefit, Mason and Mitchell provide some reassurance by bringing together leading experts on civil wars for a substantial stock-taking exercise. Because wars within states are so much more common than wars between states, there is a rich amount of material available on their origins, incidence, duration, and effects. One can always doubt whether scholars can actually generate meaningful theories by comparing disparate cases, but this book shows how a combination of methodologies allows analysts to identify and explore a number of important issues, including the role of ethnicity, the importance of state capacity (or lack thereof), and the problems of bringing civil wars to definitive conclusions.