Violence and Its Histories: Meanings, Methods, Problems

Violence has evolved over the past few decades into one of the leading interpretive concepts in history. And yet there few critiques of it to speak of, and no clear-cut methodology on how to do the history of violence. This article takes a more critical view of violence as a field of historical research by questioning some of the approaches and methods adopted until now. It examines some meanings of violence and the difficulties involved in defining it, discusses some of the trends that have emerged from the history of violence, and offers some suggestions about how to approach the topic from a different perspective. It argues for a cultural, constructed interpretation of violence that not only involves understanding behaviors, but also narratives and discourses of violence that help both define and shape people's attitudes.