War - History of Warfare

History of Warfare

Before the dawn of civilization, war likely consisted of small-scale raiding. One half of the people found in a Nubian cemetery dating to as early as 12,000 years ago had died of violence. Since the rise of the state some 5,000 years ago, military activity has occurred over much of the globe. The advent of gunpowder and the acceleration of technological advances led to modern warfare. According to Conway W. Henderson, "One source claims 14,500 wars have taken place between 3500 BC and the late 20th century, costing 3.5 billion lives, leaving only 300 years of peace (Beer 1981: 20)."

In War Before Civilization, Lawrence H. Keeley, a professor at the University of Illinois, says that approximately 90–95% of known societies throughout history engaged in at least occasional warfare, and many fought constantly.

Keeley explained several styles of primitive combat such as, small raids, large raids, and massacres. All of these forms of warfare were perpetrated by primitive societies. The use of the massacre by pre-state societies can be exhibited by the Dogrib tribes of the subarctic in North America. The Dogrib tribe eventually destroyed the Yellowknife tribe by killing 4 men, 13 women, and 17 children which accounted for 20 percent of the population. This was a devastating blow from which the Yellowknife tribe never recovered. Keeley further explains how small raids are not organized due to the lack of leadership and any formal training. This causes raids to be short and quick with relatively low numerical casualties but may significantly damage a percentage of a population. The deficit of resources also can account for a lack of fortifications and defensive structures in primitive prestate societies. The protection provided by a defensive could not justify the valuable resources used and labor implemented to build it.

William Rubinstein wrote that "Pre-literate societies, even those organised in a relatively advanced way, were renowned for their studied cruelty ... 'archaeology yields evidence of prehistoric massacres more severe than any recounted in ethnography '. At Crow Creek, South Dakota, as noted, archaeologists found a mass grave of 'more than 500 men, women, and children who had been slaughtered, scalped, and mutilated during an attack on their village a century and a half before Columbus's arrival (ca. AD 1325)' ".

In Western Europe, since the late 18th century, more than 150 conflicts and about 600 battles have taken place.

The Human Security Report 2005 documented a significant decline in the number and severity of armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. However, the evidence examined in the 2008 edition of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management's "Peace and Conflict" study indicated that the overall decline in conflicts had stalled.

Recent rapid increases in the technologies of war, and therefore in its destructiveness (see Mutual assured destruction), have caused widespread public concern, and have in all probability forestalled, and may hopefully altogether prevent the outbreak of a nuclear World War III. At the end of each of the last two World Wars, concerted and popular efforts were made to come to a greater understanding of the underlying dynamics of war and to thereby hopefully reduce or even eliminate it all together. These efforts materialized in the forms of the League of Nations, and its successor, the United Nations.

Shortly after World War II, as a token of support for this concept, most nations joined the United Nations. During this same post-war period, with the aim of further delegitimizing war as an acceptable and logical extension of foreign policy, most national governments also renamed their Ministries or Departments of War as their Ministries or Departments of Defense, for example, the former US Department of War was renamed as the US Department of Defense.

In 1947, in view of the rapidly increasingly destructive consequences of modern warfare, and with a particular concern for the consequences and costs of the newly developed atom bomb, Albert Einstein famously stated, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Fortunately, the anticipated costs of a possible third world war are currently no longer deemed as acceptable by most, thus little motivation currently seems to exist on an international level for such a war.

Still since the close of World War II, limited non-nuclear conflicts continue, and surprisingly enough, some outspoken celebrities and politicians have even advocated for the proclamation of another world war. Mao Zedong urged the socialist camp not to fear nuclear war with the United States since, even if "half of mankind died, the other half would remain while imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist."

  • Greek hoplite and Persian warrior depicted fighting, on an ancient kylix, 5th century BC

  • The Battle of Tewkesbury (1471) during the Wars of the Roses in England

  • A cattle raid during the Swabian War (Luzerner Schilling)

  • The Battle of Ravenna, in which France defeated the Spaniards on Easter Sunday in 1512

  • Swiss and Landsknecht pikemen fight at "push of pike" during the Italian Wars

  • Russo-Polish war, Battle of Orsha in 1514

  • The Spanish naval victory of the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, the last battle to be fought primarily between galleys

  • Battle of White Mountain, 1620, an early battle in the Thirty Years' War

  • The Four Days' Battle, 1–4 June 1666, during the Second Anglo-Dutch War

  • The Battle of Poltava (1709), a decisive battle between Russian and Swedish troops

  • Depicting French Cuirassiers charging onto the British squares during the Battle of Waterloo

  • The 20th Foot at the Battle of Inkerman, Crimean War, 1854

  • American Civil War, Union captures Fort Fisher, 1865

  • US Army's 89th Infantry Division cross the Rhine River in assault boats, 1945

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