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Lincoln’s Code

Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Bancroft Prize Winner
ABA Silver Gavel Award Winner
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

In the closing days of 1862, just three weeks before Emancipation, the administration of Abraham Lincoln commissioned a code setting forth the laws of war for US armies. It announced standards of conduct in wartime—concerning torture, prisoners of war, civilians, spies, and slaves—that shaped the course of the Civil War. By the twentieth century, Lincoln’s code would be incorporated into the Geneva Conventions and form the basis of a new international law of war.

In this deeply original book, John Fabian Witt tells the fascinating history of the laws of war and its eminent cast of characters—Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Lincoln—as they crafted the articles that would change the course of world history. Witt’s engrossing exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of the laws of war is a prehistory of our own era. Lincoln’s Code reveals that the heated controversies of twenty-first-century warfare have roots going back to the beginnings of American history. It is a compelling story of ideals under pressure and a landmark contribution to our understanding of the American experience.

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The art of war

Previous translations of The Art of War have presented Sun Tzu’s classic from the point of view of military strategy, Chinese history, or Taoist philosophy. This translation—accompanied by the translators’ in-depth essays and illuminating line-by-line commentary—offers a fresh perspective on this ancient Chinese text. Here, Sun Tzu’s strategic principles of warfare (based as they were on the fundamental insights of the Chinese spiritual and philosophical tradition) are seen as universally relevant—the foundation for personal transformation and the creation of an enlightened society. In this translation of The Art of War , Sun Tzu’s teachings are revealed in an entirely new light. War is any situation that demands hard choices about creation and destruction, life or death. The state is the system in which we live—our household, our culture or society, or our own mind. Defense ensures the integrity of our boundaries and allows life to flourish within them. Force is the energy of concentrated action. Victory lies in bringing others around to embracing a larger view—one that includes their own—without ever going to battle.