This publication emerges from a series of workshops held at the British Academy to examine different understandings and facets of violence as a social phenomenon, as well as the effects of those understandings on its representation and its reproduction in various contexts. It therefore presents a number of short papers that explore problems of identification, questions of recognition, and the narratives, languages, images, myths and mediation that recur in the context of violence. The violence experienced could range from the spectacular to the everyday, inflicted against people, objects, or symbols. Throughout it will be demonstrated that our approach to violence needs to be reassessed in order to develop a better understanding of how violence might be defined and conceptualised. The articles presented here examine the ways in which we approach the understanding of violence and seek to explain and interpret it, embracing the full complexity of violence as a social, historical and political phenomenon, and the implications that this has for research and policy engagement.