What We Are Reading Today: Divided Armies

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Updated 23 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Divided Armies

Author: Jason Lyall

How do armies fight and what makes them victorious on the modern battlefield? In Divided Armies, Jason Lyall challenges long-standing answers to this classic question by linking the fate of armies to their levels of inequality.
Introducing the concept of military inequality, Lyall demonstrates how a state’s prewar choices about the citizenship status of ethnic groups within its population determine subsequent battlefield performance.
Treating certain ethnic groups as second-class citizens, either by subjecting them to state-sanctioned discrimination or, worse, violence, undermines interethnic trust, fuels grievances, and leads victimized soldiers to subvert military authorities once war begins.
The higher an army’s inequality, Lyall finds, the greater its rates of desertion, side-switching, casualties, and use of coercion to force soldiers to fight, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
In a sweeping historical investigation, Lyall draws on Project Mars, a new dataset of 250 conventional wars fought since 1800, to test this argument.


What We Are Reading Today: Empty

Updated 04 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Empty

Author: Susan Burton

Susan Burton’s Empty tells the story of her early struggles with anorexia and binge eating.
“The book, from beginning to end, is a document of anger,” said Claire Dederer in a review for The New York Times.
“There’s quiet fury at its center — a nuclear sun that radiates not out at the world, but back at the author herself. This is decidedly not the work of someone who’s worked through all her issues, as the jargon goes,” Dederer said of the memoir.
The author’s “anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning — which goes against every received idea of what good memoir is, and how it ought it to function,” added the review.
“Burton started dieting at 9 and then as a young teenager became anorexic. But it’s her adolescent bingeing that takes up most of the book’s pages — a secret she can’t stop telling,” Dederer said.
Dederer is the author, most recently, of the memoir Love and Trouble.