War and Social Upheaval: Chronology

Figure 1.--Hitler when he invaded the Soviet Union was intent on a campaign of unprecedented brutality. The NAZIs are best known for the Jewish Holocaust, less well known was his goal of destroying the Slavs, killing many and reducing the survivors to slavery. The Soviets executed a burnt earh policy, destroying farms and facrories. Some were able t oescape the Germans. With the speed of the German advance in the opening months of Barbarossa, many more were engulfed in the NAZI Empire.

The course of human history is of course frought with war and crisis. Such events are known at the dawn of human history. We have develped basic information on major wars over time. Roo often children are lost in the historical discussion of wars and other conflicts. Actually they often played important roles. Our intention is to develop information about how children fared during these wars. Over time, children and youth often made up important elements in armies and navies. Often the civilians most affected were children. Our assessment at this time has primary centered in collecting basic historical information on these conflicts. We hope as our site develops to add information about the role of children in these wars and the impact of the wars on them. We began this section primarily to assess fashions styles evolving from military uniforms, but as we collected information decided to expand our focus. Of course we have much more information and images on 20th century conflicts, but we hope to eventually expand our coverage of historical periods as well.


Recorded history is a very minor part of man's existence. Thus until very recently we could only speculate about man's inherent propensity for violence and war making. Thus the issue was addressed by religious figures and philosphers. The Bible with Cain and Able story suggests an inherent propensity for violence. The subject was touched on by Roman authors (including Cicero and Lucretius) who were strong supporters of the Roman Republic. They became very popular as classical literature was rediscovered by the Renaissance humanists. English philospher Thomas Hobbes is perhaps the strongest philosophical voice postulating man's violent nature. Hobbes's vission was part of his justification of the doctriune of royal absolutism. [Hobbes] in Leviathan. There he wrote that the state of nature is a "war of all against all" in which men's lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Europe at the time was encountering primitive people in Latin America, Africa, and Oceania. Some of these people were little removed from Neolithic man so Europe essentially came into contact with people of the Neolithic era. At the time Hobbes wrote, the religious and philodhical underpinings of absolute divine right monrchies were being undermined by the dreadful religious wars (17th century). And a range of European authors took issue with Hobbes. One of the first important author to speculate that in a state of nature that humans were essentially good was the Earl of Shaftesbury, an important Whig supporter of constitutional monarchy. And only a short time after Hobbes published Leviathan, the a Glorious Revolution transformed England and began the assault on royal absolutism (1688). Shaftesbury wrote a decade later at the onset of the Enlightenment that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate. He insisted that it was based on inate feelings rather than resulting from religious or moral teaching. A popular theme of the Enligtenment was the 'noble savage'. The term was first coined by John Dryden (1672). [Dryden] The term is often associated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau who, along wih other Engligtenment authors, contended that man was born an innocent in a state of nature with the potential for goodness and that it was civilization which promoted greed, envy, and violence, a theme that appeals to the 2011 Wall Street protestors. The debate has been philosphical and most authors assumed that it was an unanswerable issue. Modern technology is, however, beginning to provide some definitive data on war and vilence in the Neolithic era.

Early Wars and Crisis

The course of human history is of course frought with war and crisis. Such events are known at the dawn of humn history. HBC has little information on these early periods and in many instances detailed information on the society and clothing is unavailable. It is worthwhile, however, noting some of these events for future reference. This list of course is by no means exhaustive. HBC would be very interesting in any advise or insights that readers can offer on these eras. Some limited information is available in the chronolgical section of HBC. And we have developed infofrnmation on the wars of the ancient and medieval era.

The 16th Century

The 16th century in many ways can be seen as the beginning of the modern era. The Renaissance which had begun in Italy during the 14th century had reached most of Europe by the 16th century meaning that the new humanist outlook was now percolating throughout Europe. This neat the end of Feudalism and the Medieval era. This change was amplified by the Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther (1519). The Reformation emphasized the individual responsibility and thus amplified the humanist outlook of the Renaissance. The European voyages of discovery begun in the 15th century result in major discoveries throught the 16th century. The Protestant Refornation and Catholic Counter Reformation would usher in a series of bloody religious wars that wouls conginue into the 17th century. Spanish Conquistadores wept through Mexico and Peru. The Spanish carved out a colonial Empire in the Americas and vast uantities of gold and silvr flowed into Spain. The bullion was what caught popular attention, but in the long run it was humble crops like potatos and corn that had an even greter long term impact. This helped make Spain the most powerful country in Europe. The Spanish use thos power to break Ottomon naval power. The Austrians stoped the advance of the Ottomons and Islm in Europe. The Spanish also attempted to use their power to supress the Reformation and Protestant states. The Spanish Inquisition successfully supressed questioining minds in Spain itself, but the Dutch Protestants held out in the Low Lands and the English defeated the Great Armada (1588). The Spanish defeat not only preserved the independence of England, but made possible the English settlment of North America.

The 17th Century

The century began when the War for Dutch Independence still underway. Religion was still an important factor at the beginning of the century, both in the Dutch War for Independence and the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War can be been as the last religious war in Europe. The War was settled in a way which led to growing toleration because Catholics could not suoress the Protestants and the Protestants were two divided among different sects to even try to supress rival sects. The wars in the mid-century (Thirty Years War, the Fronde, and the English Civil War) determined the dynastic system in Western Europe. The ensuing wars had a more dynastic character. The wars of the late 17th century evolved primarily around the efforts of Louis XIV to expand France's boundaies and the efforts of neigboring countries to resist Fremch encrochments. This added to the French-English and Frenh-Austrian rivalry as England and Austria often played a major role in the resistance to Louis.

The 18th Century

No development in modern history has affected individuals more than the Industrial Revolution. Historians debate just where and when the Industrail Revolution began. We would set it at about the mid-18th century in the English Midlands. Some authors might take issue with this, but this would be the most widely accepted view. The first industry affected was the weaving or clothing industry, which is one reason that the study of the clothing industry is so important. It was at this time that workers instead of weaving piece work at home, began to work in factories. Here cotton manufacture became especially important. The American Revolutionary War was an astounding occurance in a world sill dominated by kings. It established the firt important republic since Rome in the middle of what at the time was a wilderness far from Europe. It was a war that the British could have easily voided had King George and his adviors been willing to show the least flexibility. Many in Britain objected to the War and a minority of Americans wanted independence at the time the war began. It was also a war that the American colonists won by the slimest of margins against the most powerful country in the world. The rise of the bourgeoisie in France signaled the deathnell for Ancien Regime, the old aristocracy. Unlike Britain and the new United States, the economiclly important bourgeoisie was denied any political role and support of the increasingly frivolous aristocracy imposed a great economic cost on France. Not only was the bourgeoisie denied any real political role, but the lower classess lived in increasingly deprived conditions, a situation intensified by the bankruptsy of he royal government. The increasing oposition to France's virtually feudal government suddenly ignited during a 1789 riot that exploded into open revolt. The Revolution was oposed by the other counties of Europe--all monarchies. The disorders and violence in France were to engulf all Europe in war, first with the new French Republic and then with Napoleon's Empire.

The 19th Century

The 19th century was dominated by two major wars. The first was the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) of the early 19th century in which the French Revolutionaly Wars were transformed into a more traditional European war, although with increasingly nationalistic overtones. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars ignited the passions of nationalism that so dominated the 19th and 20th centuries. The other major war of the 19th century was the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) which resulted in the unification of Germany and set the stage for the modern wars of the 20st century. It was to be a realtive European side show, however, the Balkan Wars (1879-1913) that would hold the seed for the spark that brought about World War I in the 20th century. Other major events included the continuation of the Industrial Revolution, the Irish Potato Famine, the Revolutions sweeping Europe in 1848, the Criman War, the Boer War, and the European colonization of much of Africa and Asia.

The 20th Century

The 20th century was dominated by two major wars. The World War I (1914-18) and II (1939-45). With some degree of accuarcy they can be viewed as one struggle separated by a 20-year truce. World War I was the culmination of European nationalism. Many of the nationalist issues were left unsettled by the Armistace (1918)and peace treaties (1919-21) peace if not exacerbated by the war and mixed with the impact of the Depression and virulent totalitarian ideologies (Fascism and Communism) the war was resumed again if even more deadly form in 1939. The increasingl leathality of weaponry, the expanded targeting of civilian populations, and the deadly mixture of nationalism, ideology, and racism resulted in the most destructive conflict in human history. The defeat of Fascism and Japananes militarism was followed by a half century struggle between Communism led by the Soviet Union and Western Democracy led by the United States--the Cold War. The United States during the 20th century underwent fundamental changes. The New Deal introduced a level of social justice to working-class Americans. After World War II during the Cold War underwent a struggle for Civil Rights that fundamentally changed American society. The NAZIs had so fundamentally decretited racism that increasing numbers of Americans began to understand the injustices faced by minorities at home. At great cost, the United States as a result of two World Wars and the Cold War achieved many of its primary objectives. Germany and Japan were turned into modern non-aggressive democracies. By the end of the century China and Russia were persuing reforms that had fundamentally changed the totalitariann nature of theor socirties although it is not yet claer as to the kind of society that will eventually evolve. Even after the defeat of the NAZIs genocide continues to blot the 20th century, in Cambodia, Rwaanda, Yigoslavia, and elsewhere. By the end of the decade Communist totalitarianism had been defeated, but a new challenge was devdeloping, totalitarianism fueld by fanatical relious beliefs mixed with natioanlism.

The 21st Century

With the end of the Cold war at the end of the 20th century, international conflicts appear to have made a major shift. Military conflict between modern industrial state seems increasingly remote. The conflicts of the new 21st century appear to fall into two categories. The first is between Third World countries and the Industrial countries, a classic instance of the conflict between the haves and have nots. Here many Third World countries are deeply conflicting beteen modernization and traditional values. [Cook] The second is that between Third World countries. The classic example here is the simmering dispute between India and Pakistan over Khasmir, a conflict made especially dangerous because both countries have nuclear weapons. The current attention is on Islamic fundamentalism, but a key elementbin many conflicts of the late 20th and early 21st century are the increasing number of failed nations. Many observers in the optimistic afterglow following the end of the Cold war thought that the end of the East-West ideological struggle would result in in a declining number of conflicts around the world. Some authors have suggested that the 21st century will be marked by a clash of civilizations. [Hunnington] This does not mean clashes of rival world views as in the Cold War. Rather the danger may be a clash between anarchic, failed states and the successful industrial nations. There are in the world many anarchic failed states unable to achieve and democratic rule.


Dryden, John. The Conquest of Granada (1672).

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan Chapter XIII (1660).

Hunnington, Samuel. Clash of Civilizations: Remaking of World Order.

Shaftesbury, Earl of. "Inquiry Concerning Virtue" (1699).


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to Main specific war essay page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Animals] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 7:41 PM 7/12/2004
Last updated: 11:27 AM 10/25/2014