Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea
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Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Modern Library Chronicles #26)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  611 ratings  ·  93 reviews
In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. Nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, he asserts, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak trut...more
Paperback, Chronicles, 224 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Modern Library (first published January 1st 2006)
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This book was absolutely captivating.

The history of non-violence is unrepresented in our educational system. In fact, it is quite the opposite: our educational system presents history almost entirely as a progression of violent acts.

Kurlansky's book is remarkable for several reasons. It is a fascinating, lucid account of the non-violence movement throughout history, most of which we have never before encountered. His writing is excellent - clear and concise, and yet descriptive. And the story is...more
I didn't particularly enjoy Kurlansky's book on nonviolence--although his facts are accurate, they are often incomplete and his tone is snarky throughout. Someone whose introduction to nonviolence is this book is likely to reject the whole business.
Jason Evans
As I waited for our '03 Honda Civic to get serviced today, I finished reading, Nonviolence: The History of A Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky. And, I must say that this is a great read! I love reading history, so maybe it's just me, but I really enjoyed this book. Kurlansky is accessible and does a good job of representing the history of nonviolence throughout history. The book is fairly short, so he does not go into too much detail but enough to entice the imagination of those that dream of a w...more
If we want peace, we will have to be willing to suffer for it, and maybe even die for it, but isn't that what we say about "freedom," and that the cost is worth it? Why are we willing to kill others in war, even if that means we have a good chance of getting hurt or killed ourselves, but we are unwilling to refuse to kill, if that means we might be hurt or killed? The human mind is a strange thing. Kurlansky does a terrific job of pointing out not just the suffering of war, but the absurdity of...more
A lovely little book with a nice organizational conceit: a list of lessons. The author makes arguments that will be impossible to disagree with, even if they are hard to put into practice. Others are less obvious and might make some readers question the assertions made. But that's good. I found myself questioning some assumptions I had labored under for some time (e.g., was WWII really a good or even necessary war?).

The folks who will find this book most useful are those of us who are drawn to...more
A 4.5 star effort really but I'm rounding it up to 5 as 1/2 stars are not allowed. In a short book, Mark Kurlansky manages to pack a lot of history, especially as it pertains to the history of nonviolence. The breadth covered is quite large, from ancient Christians to more modern figures like Gandhi and MLK. A key premise is that often religions start out with nonviolence at their core but once the religions are co-opted/adopted by the state/monarchy, violence seems to become part of the religio...more
A very interesting history of nonviolence. It especially made me want to find out more about the resistance in Denmark during WWII. The moral argument the author makes for nonviolence is convincing, the pragmatic argument is harder to accept. His explanation of the difference between passivity and nonviolent resistance made it clearer to me just what the applied methods of a nonviolent campaign are, and also made it clearer just how difficult it would be to practice nonviolence.
Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea is a book that I've seen many human rights activists who I admire recommend, and it's really opened my eyes to seeing things from a different point of view. In Nonviolence, Kurlansky provides an insightful overview of this powerful mindset and movement, citing its early origins in the foundations of religions such as Christianity and Hinduism, and carries it through to describing its use in relation to the fall of the Soviet Empire. He illustrates the...more
A wonderful book that I hope more people read.
It is a brilliant study of nonviolence towards political goals. While I do not agree with every one of the below statements, his argument and development of these "rules"(my term, not the authors) is detailed and contains both well known and not well known examples. There are not enough historical analysis of Nonviolence as a political strategy written by a historian rather than an activist. While the author's bias is obvious he sells this method of political change as the only lasting and effic...more
Larry Bassett
The subtitle of this book lets you know what to expect if you pick it up intending to read it: Nonviolence: Twenty Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea.

For me, nonviolence is a part of an ideal world. I am drawn to it but do not know where in my being it originated. I do not want to make the concept a weak rationale that explains how I try to travel on my life’s path. How do people fall under the spell of nonviolence?

I am a member and supporter of the War Resisters League. I joined...more
Chris Walker
I finished this book feeling not particularly optimistic about non-violent resistance, despite some well researched and interesting history of instances where it has worked given sufficient time (20 years in the case of Poland), grassroots support and the incredible courage, forbearance and suffering of people in the front lines. I found the history of Denmark's resistance to the Nazis and the Pathans' resistance to the British inspiring but wondered why the most recent history of Northern Irela...more
Jessica La La La La La!
"I believe that ultimately it is only through kindness and nonviolence that we human beings can create a more tranquil and happy atmosphere that will allow us to live in harmony and peace." - The Dalai Lama (xiii)

"To experience genuine compassion is to develop a feeling of closeness to others combined with a sense of responsibility for their welfare." - The Dalai Lama (xiii)

"It is precisely when things become really difficult, urgent, and critical that we should think and act with nonviolence."...more
Mark Kurlansky is an excellent writer, He makes a very strong case for nonviolence. He sees nonviolence as a political tactic, and openly questions those cases in history that have been routinely touted as examples of regimes which would be impervious to a Ghandi-like resistance.

He singles out the Nazi's and the slave-owning southern states of America as deserving special consideration, because it is the accepted wisdom that nonviolence would have been ineffective in these two cases. There are...more
I love "history of xyz" books. And this is one of the better ones--and Kurlansky knows what he's doing (author of "Cod" and "Salt" which I now also have to read).

This book moves through many different movements, people and instances of nonviolent activism.

Lots of people you would expect, Gandhi, Tutu, Jesus and some unexpected groups, the Waldensians, lots of abolitionists, and other interesting folk.

This book points to Jesus as "yet another" more or less "equal" practicer of nonviolence. Not...more
I've always been fascinated by nonviolence - it's one of those political tactics that I've seen touted, but secretly thought of as largely ineffective. After all, if the government has shut a large group of people out of the decision-making process, whether by disenfranchising a subset of the population or by becoming a dicatorship, I had trouble seeing how getting a bunch of them together and, for example, chaining them to something, was really going to change anything.

I think I believed this...more
I do not have a problem with nonviolence. I don't have a problem with the ideas presented in this book. I have a problem with the way those ideas were presented. I felt like the prose was willfully deceptive in its simplification of history. Plus, there were some facts that were just plain wrong (the 19th amendment was allowing women to vote was passed in 1920, not 1929), or worded deceptively. I don't know. I just feel like the book could have been much better with fifty more pages of facts to...more
As a pacifist & a supporter of non - violent solutions to all conflict, this book served as a nice reminder of the importance of standing your NON - VIOLENT ground. Kurlansky reminds the reader of the reasons why violence doesn't work by juxtaposing the frustrating tales of ineffective shooting wars against more effective non-violent resistance movements. There are places where the details of said wars grow tedious & I wanted more development of the ideas behind the non-violent resistanc...more
David Bales
A very interesting history of non-violence, from ancient times to the present. Kurlansky presents some provocative ideas questioning the wisdom of war, any war, throughout history, including the saintly "Good War" of World War II and the American Civil War. He uses alot of examples, (such as Gandhi's campaign in India) to suggest that non-violence is more effective than armed struggle. He points out that in the Middle East, violence hasn't worked, isn't working and probably won't ever work. One...more
I liked reading history books, and this is a new look at the history I thought I knew. Kurlansky points out missed opportunities as well as success stories of non violent demonstration. The 25 lessons have to do with the ridiculous, yet compelling arguments and tactics of violence. "Behind every war, there are a few founding lies" etc. It was very thought provoking. It is so easy and takes zero thought to be violent. But to be non violent in the face of violence takes such self discipline and de...more
Jackson Culpepper
Charts a course of nonviolent action and thought from ancient times (India, China, Japan), through a mostly Western track through the middle ages and finally to the 20th century. The actual 25 lessons are excellent, and take up a mere two pages in the appendix. Their explication comes in the preceding history. Kurlansky assumes some familiarity in his readers about such prominent nonviolent events as Ghandi's campaign in India and the Civil Rights Movement--I was with him on most of it but would...more
Rick Edwards
Kurlansky provides an enlightening treatment of the history of non-violence. There are many histories of warfare; I doubt there are many at all of the alternative approach to resolving social and international conflict. He establishes that the theory and practice of non-violent struggle have been established--"the hard work" of beginning to abolish war has been done. Now it's a matter for implementation by larger and larger majorities.
From my point of view as a Christian pastor, he does a good j...more
Thomas Morris
A must read book. I have read many Kurlansky books and love his perspective and narrative style. Met him in 2011 Miami Book Fair and brought this book-just read-with me. He kindly signed it. It was my daughter's birthday and I couldn't think of anything better than having her meet Kurlansky.
T.L. Cooper
Mark Kurlansky's treatise, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea, examines the effectiveness of nonviolence as a means to create change in socity. Kurlansky explores the failures of violences to be effective in exacting real change as well as why leaders, countries, and people accept, excuse, and advocate violence when nonviolence would garner greater results. The reasons are often simple but just as often convaluted and almost always self-serving. He uses examples of nonviolence from his...more
David Wagner
A fascinating book chronicling examples of active non-violent resistance. The author presents a powerful argument for the efficacy of such movements, and contrasts their differences from mere passive acceptance of a situation.

Unfortunately, because the book covers such a breadth of history and movements, it never delves too deeply into any of them. This left me with a feeling that any inconvenient facts which may have overtly challenged the main thesis of the book were put to one side. However,...more
A very interesting look at history through the nonviolent perspective. Defining nonviolence not as inactive pacifism (which he labels cowardly), the author makes a fairly compelling case that nonviolence is a more powerful tool for change than violence. It also attacks "just war" theory by highlighting the horrors of war and violence. No historian is ever completely correct, and perhaps the main criticism of this book is the brevity of his specific examples due to the rather short length and wid...more
Kay Baird
An outstanding contribution to the understanding of nonviolence in world politics. I was startled to learn fact after historical fact that has been suppressed or simply ignored by our culture of violence. Kurlansky does not directly address the application of nonviolence to private, interpersonal politics -- or to the power struggles that go on within one person among competing values and beliefs. And he uses the term "power" only in the culturally accepted sense of "violent power" (or Starhawk'...more
I tend to see a book like this as advancing a philosophical thesis, something like Violence is always morally unjustified. And seen that way it comes up short. For example, Kurlansky quickly and easily find nonviolence at the core of all the major religious traditions, an investigation that inevitably has a good helping of truth but can't do justice to the complexities of the historical debate. What the book succeeds in doing is illustrating the many ways in which violence has been ineffective....more
An overview of nonviolent practices throughout history, this would make an excellent addition to any collegiate philosophy class. The hell with that: bump some of that so-called literature from the high school curriculum and give this to the students to argue over. Because nonviolence isn't pacifism, and it isn't non-resistance: it's loud and strident resistance to the wars that've shaped all of history.

A significant departure from all his other works, Kurlansky makes no pretense towards neutral...more
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Mark Kurlansky (born 7 December 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a highly-acclaimed American journalist and writer of general interest non-fiction. He is especially known for titles on eclectic topics, such as cod or salt.

Kurlansky attended Butler University, where he harbored an early interest in theatre and earned a BA in 1970. However, his interest faded and he began to work as a journalist in...more
More about Mark Kurlansky...
Salt: A World History Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America

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