In Ride of the Second Horseman, Robert L. O'Connell probes the distant human past to show how and why war arose, concluding that it is an invention--an institution that formed due to very specific historical circumstances, an institution that now verges on extinction. He begins with a definition that distinguishes between war and mere feuding, and draws on anthropology and archeology to locate the rise of war sometime after the human transition from nomadic hunting and gathering to agriculture, when society split between farmers and pastoralists. O'Connell explores the histories of the civilizations of ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Assyria, China, and the New World, showing how war came to each and how it adapted to varying circumstances. Studying societies based on trade, he finds that they employed war much more selectively and pragmatically. Thus, Minoan Crete, long protected from marauding pastoralists, developed a wealthy mercantile society marked by unmilitaristic attitudes, equality between men and women, and a relative absence of class distinctions. In Assyria, by contrast, war came to be an end in itself, in a culture dominated by male warriors. Despite the violence in the world today, O'Connell finds reason for hope. The industrial revolution broke the old patterns of subsistence: war no longer serves the demographic purpose it once did. Fascinating and provocative, Ride of the Second Horseman offers a far-reaching tour of human history that suggests the age-old cycle of war may now be near its end.