Eating One’s Own: Examining Civil War: A Conversation with David Armitage

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - History
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This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and intellectual historian David Armitage, the Lloyd C. Blanfein Professor of History at Harvard University. This conversation covers David Armitage’s research on the history of ideas of civil war from Ancient Rome to the present. A salient feature of his work is a strong focus on etymology as it relates to our understanding of how people interpreted (or misinterpreted) and perceived events in history which results in a fascinating exploration of how our understanding of various concepts has been prejudiced by past societies and past beliefs that we might not even be aware of, and how they, in turn, go on to influence other societies; and how this cumulative process frames our understanding of these ideas.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Imagining the Possibilities, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Historical Origins - In search of multiple perspectives

II. The Semantic Archaeologist - Analyzing sedimented meanings 

III. In Search of a Definition - Francis Lieber’s “ticklish business”

IV. Bellum Civile - The Roman reference point

V. What Is To Be Done? - Applying historical understanding to the modern world

VI. Historical Relevance -  More prevalent than often recognized

VII. Oceans of Possibilities - Future work

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series: 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert through a focused yet informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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The Conversation
Historical Origins
The Semantic Archaeologist
In Search of a Definition
Bellum Civile
What Is To Be Done?
Historical Relevance
Oceans of Possibilities

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games.