Farmers War

Not only did farming increase our work hours, reduce our travel, impoverish our diet, and increase social hierarchy, it also greatly increased war.  From a Science book review:

There are four extant great ape species. Each has a different social system, with chimpanzees being the only species to regularly evidence multimale violent coalitions. …. In chimpanzees, each female … mates with every male in her group. Males join forces to defend their territory … and each male will have access to all those females… Marriage is a universal human behavior, and it is defined by cultural and legal rules proscribing sex outside of marriage, particularly by women. … All available evidence suggests that intergroup violence, practiced primarily by males, does have a long evolutionary history in our species. However, the intensity and nature of that violence is highly variable. …

The hunting and gathering adaptation, especially in its mobile form, does not appear to promote large-scale warfare, not only because groups are small, but because incentives are largely absent. Monogamy is the most common marital form (probably because women depend on men’s meat contribution and it is difficult to support two wives), so there is less incentive for bride-capture warfare. There can be territorial conflicts, but nothing in comparison to the conflicts that occur over precious lands when agricultural becomes the dominant way of life.

The scope for warfare has changed considerably as human economic systems have changed. Once people settle and the value of land varies from place to place, large-scale warfare becomes a persistent feature of human behavior, almost exclusively practiced among men. The riches to be had from control over productive river valleys (such as the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile) not only led to large-scale warfare but also to extreme differences in power and status, harems, and rape of women during and after war.

If people had known the consequences farming would bring, should they have tried to resist it?  I say no, but mainly because farming allowed so many more people to exist with lives worth living, even if those were near subsistence level lives.

Added 31Oct: Kukan points us to an excellent summary.

GD Star Rating
Tagged as: ,
Trackback URL: