Access Type

Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.



Download Full Text (26.9 MB)


Pathbreaking and controversial, Darwin and International Relations offers the first comprehensive analysis of international affairs of state through the lens of evolutionary theory. Bradley A. Thayer provides a new method for investigating and explaining human and state behavior while generating insights into the origins of human and animal warfare, ethnic conflict, and the influence of disease on international relations. Using ethnological and statistical studies of warfare among tribal societies, Thayer argues that humans wage war for reasons predicted by evolutionary theory—to gain and protect vital resources but also for the physically and emotionally stimulating effects of combat. Thayer demonstrates that an evolutionary understanding of disease will become a more important part of the study of international relations as new strains of diseases emerge and advances in genetics make biological warfare a more effective weapon for states and terrorists. He also explains the deep causes of ethnic conflict by illuminating how xenophobia and ethnocentrism evolved in humans. He notes that these behaviors once contributed to our ancestors' success in radically different environments, but they remain a part of us. Darwin and International Relations makes a major contribution to our understanding of human history and the future of international relations.

"Thayer shows a mastery of research and theory in both biology and international relations and weaves the two fields together in a compelling fashion. This volume introduces readers to the relevance of biological theory and findings for international politics, allowing them to see world politics in a different and valuable light."—Dr. Steven A. Peterson Director, School of Public Affairs, Penn State Capital College

"Obligatory reading for social and life scientists alike, and deserves to become a standard work in political science. It is also"—International History Review

"A thoughtful book that can challenge some of our comfortable assumptions. . . . His effort to construct a theoretically coherent argument is well worth reading, carefully."—Journal of Military History

"Thayer want to show . . . how a hard-science approach to a soft subject can work. He succeeds admirably, and his book deserves careful reading."—Military Review

"Outstanding! By ingeniously linking the social and biological sciences, Thayer makes a major contribution to our understanding of world politics, war, ethnic conflict, and international relations. This book will become a standard work in political science."—Roger D. Masters, Dartmouth College

"The fascinating pages of this book open a discussion that highlights humans as not being the only species to engage in organized warfare."—Waterline

"Thayer’s work is impressively well researched and represents an attempt to breach hardened disciplinary barriers."—Jonathon Louth, In-Spire Journal of Law, Politics and Societies

"Groundbreaking in both its scope and conclusions, Darwin and International Relations refocuses the study of international affairs through the lens of Darwinian evolutionary theory. . . . Obligatory reading for social and life scientist alike, and deserves to become a standard work in political science."—Comparative Strategy

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Human evolution, Evolutionary theory, War, Ethnic relations


International Relations

Darwin and International Relations: On the Evolutionary Origins of War and Ethnic Conflict
Read Sample Off-campus Download for UK only

Consortium members may access while on their campus.