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March 2020
Cambria Press

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Restoring Thucydides

Testing Familiar Lessons and Deriving New Ones
Jay M. Parker
Andrew R. Novo

Few books have had a wider sustained impact than "Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War." More than 2,500 years after it was written, Thucydides is still read by academics, students and policymakers looking for enduring lessons into everything from grand strategy to domestic politics and human nature. Yet, like many great books, this work by Thucydides is more often quoted than read.

While many studies have attempted to derive lessons from Thucydides or apply lessons to international politics today, few works have tested the validity of those lessons or unpacked the deeper context of Thucydides’ work and his time. Thucydides is often read in the search for predetermined lessons derived from preselected excerpts. Both academics and policymakers use phrases like “Thucydides’ Trap” without accurately referring back to the text and its context. The clichés generated by current approaches do not help us understand the particular causes, conduct and conclusion of the conflict between Athens and Sparta any more than they provide insights into the challenges of our own time.

This book examines the use and misuse of historic evidence. It addresses the persistence of historic fact that has been surpassed by legend as well as the absence of consistent, diligent interdisciplinary scholarship. The authors Andrew R. Novo and Jay M. Parker demonstrate how rigor cannot be credible without some degree of richness. Standard conclusions are challenged based on the evidence within his work and the broader historical record. New lessons with modern relevance are drawn from a richer, fuller understanding of Thucydides.


Jay M. Parker is a Distinguished Professor and Major General Fox Conner Chair of International Security Studies at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He received his MA and MPA from ASU in 1979.

Praise for this book

This well-written book will add to knowledge and understanding of Thucydides whom many consider to be the "founding father" of the discipline of international relations. The authors’ deep understanding of Thucydides ... make this an excellent scholarly book. It is a succinct, readable reinterpretation of a classic international relations text. In addition to being a useful summary of the value of Thucydides for contemporary readers, it is also a needed corrective to simplistic interpretations of Thucydides.

Dan Caldwell
Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Pepperdine University

Restoring Thucydides is an outstanding book that makes Thucydides accessible and resoundingly refutes the popularized notion of a "Thucydides trap." Novo and Parker’s rich rendition gives context for "The History," rescuing it from pinched readings and giving us access to even more valuable lessons about great power competition that entails fluid alliances, diplomatic realignments and conflict proceeding in fits and starts as rival domestic parties grappled for power.

Kori Schake
Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute