Paul Smith - Professor of History, Haverford College
Opponents of Shenzong’s anti-Tangut wars of choice from 1068 to 1085 lauded Renzong’s approach to war in the early 1040s as a superior model: Lose every major battle in a war of necessity against the Tangut Xi Xia, but retain the trust of the realm by negotiating an acceptable if inglorious peace. But when those same anti-war advocates came to power in the conservative Restoration that followed Shenzong’s death in 1085 they discovered that ending wars was difficult indeed. “The Politics of Peace and War” outlines some structural differences between wars of necessity and wars of choice, and explores the debates about peace and war that dominated Zhezong’s court from 1085 to 1100. The Sino-Tangut wars under Renzong and Shenzong were segments in a century-long arc of war from 1040 to 1142 that challenged the political dominance of a newly emergent literati elite while transforming the nature of the Song state.