HBC has collected information on numerous wars and major historical crises. Military history commonly focuses on the actual fighting, tactic, weaponery, soldiers, and strategic consequences. Battles and the wars in which they occur often have much more significance than purly military and diplomatic consequences. There are commonly pervasive political, economic and cultural consequences which affect the lives of individuals. One of the many impacts has been fshion. In most cases we have just collected basic information on the conflict and our understanding of fashion impacts are still limited. We have primarily focused on 19th and 20th century conflicts. This is the historical period in which specialized clothing existed for boys. Some of these conflicts had major impacts on fashion. Some of these conflicts had less impact on fashion, but are important to fully understand the sweep of history and the other conflicts we are assesing. We hope to eventually, however, expand our coverage to earlier conflicts as well. The question of violence in human affairs is an interesting one. It touches on the intrinsic nature of man and the institutions that he creates. The widely-held popular concept is that violence has been increasing and that modern times, especially the 20th century, was the most violent in human history. And even today in the 21st, the 24-hour electronic news cycle constantly reports on crime, war, and terrorism around the world.
The history of the 20th century is in many ways obsessed with Hitler and the NAZIs and the Holocaust. But of course the NAZIs were not the only mass murders in history nor the most deadly in terms of body count. It is instructive to look at other historical instances of mass murder. While the 20th century has been the most deadly, other mass killings have occurred in many other centuries as well. In all of these historical events, there are no precise records of slaughter and estimates vary widely as to the number of people, almost always primarily innocent civilians, actually killed. In each of these instances there were also profound social consequences.
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.
An important issue in studying war and human conflict are the root causes. The major causes have been: 1) struggels for territory with the resources and population that generate wealth, 2) dynastic issues, 3) religion, 4) nationalism, and 5) ideology. Nationalism becomes important in the 19th century. It was not absent before, but because great powers were empires multi-national entities it was not a major force. The French Revolution help ignote the nationlist fuse in Europe. Ideology might be seen as a kind of religion without divinity. One has to add ideology to that list by the time we reach the 20th century, but ideology often looks very much like a religion withoutthe metaphysics nd often moral code removed. A reader writes, "Most of the wars since the time we humans started to make historical records of events have occurred because of religious differences, then territorial disputes and thirdly about dynastic issues. And in a civilized parts of the world most trade issues are dealt with through diplomatic resolutions." This is a theme that we often hear repeated today, often by authors hostile to religion. We are not at all sure that this is true, although the issue is admitedly complicated. Looking at ancient history, we believe that religion was a relatively minor factor. The ancients certainly prayed and sacrificed to their gods for victory, but religious differences were rarely the root cause of ancient wars. And many of the great empires (Persian, Roman, and Greek) were amazingly tolerant of religious differences. Westerners often focus on their own history. Looking at China, for examole, religion seems to have been a minor factor in war. And the same was true of the Steppe tribes that alkternatively terrorized China or the West. Often in the so called religious wars there were other factors involved. Even when Western Europe was all Christian, there was no shortage of wars during the medieval period. In fact, one reason for the Crusades were all the wars and battles within Christendom. The Pope wanted to redirect all that mayhem and destruction toward the Muslims. The Thirty Years War is often described as a religious war, but another way of looking at it is the effort by German princes to use the Reformation as a way of weakening the Holy Roman Empire and moving their principalities toward independent statehood. Similarly the French religious wars was tied up with the monarchy's desire for absolutism. Religious wars are often better described as wars cloked in religion as a way of justifying them. It is worth noting that the great body counts in modern history were achieved by totalitarian atheist states who spurned religion and launched athesist campaigns.
The subject of revolutions is a fascinating one. By revilution we mean a revolt by subjects seeking to undertake a fundamental change in society. We do not know a great deal about revolutions in the ancient world. The best know such undertaking in the ancient world was the Roman Servile Wars. For more than a millenium after the fall of Rome, Europe was dominated by monarchy. There were conflicts between monarchs, but few successful challenges to the principle of monarchy. There were peasant rebellions, but they were supressed with great brutality. The primary exceptions were the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Venice. The first major revolution was the American Revolution. Actually revolution is not the best desription for what transpired in America. Over a century and a half, the English colonies through benighn neglect became largely self governing. TheRevolution was in fact the King and Parliament trying to change the system by reimposing rule from Britain. The other major revolution (France, Mexico, Russia, and China) were revolutions in a very real sence. They all resulted in enormous bloodshed that imposed regimes that did terrible damage to the countries involved. Only France ventually emerged as a Democratic state with civil liberties. Mexico may be headed in that direction. Both China and Russia today remain troubled, undemocratic countries without basic civil liberties.
Famine is one of the great killers of human histiory. Drought, Famine, Plague and Pestilence are the feared natural dissters discussed in the Bible. Plague remains one of the worst calamities that can befall mabnkind. It is no longer, howver, an entirely natural event. Modern society grows more than enough food to feed the entire humn population. Modern reporting continues to focus on the natural causes, especially drought. Mamy make a connction with global warming. Some are so commited tp theglobal arming nrativ that they ignore the political and economic dimensions of famine. Famine is as old as history and surely predates history. It is believed that climate change and resulting food shortages drove man to migrate from Africa. Hunter gthes were not as vulnerable to famne because they could move. Settled griculturl societies were less mobile and thus more vulneranle. Thee is a great deal of historical information on famine. We note
famines enduced by drought and other natural causes. Others are cosscoul enginered events as well as due to neglect or indiference. Bot political and economic concerns are involved in the engineered famines.
Military theoticians have argued about the importance of navies and more recently air forces. The first military forces must have been armies, albit small infantry forces. Eventually as the horse was domesticated, calvalry was added to armies. These land armies would dominate early warfare. There were several shifts in the dominance of infantry and calvalry. Much later would come the artillery. We know that armies came first because significant technological advances before navies could come into place. Battles cannot be fought from floating logs. None of the grreat river valley cuktures, the beginning of civilizations, were notable for building large navies. The first great naval power was the Phoenecians. It is notable that great fleers were built from the two major Mediterranean peninsulas (Greece and Rome). Persia became a great naval power, but somehow failed to defeat the Greeks with a much smaller fleet. Athens and its fleet failed to defeat the Spartans, but it was not until the Romans built a fleet that thy were able to defeat the Carthigunians. The center of Western history for two millenia was the Mediterranean. Europeans once outside the Mediterraneam clung largely to costal waters, not daring to challenge the great unknown. The Arabs never challenged Byzantine mastery of the Mediterranean, but the Ottomans did and their mastery of naval arts finally enable them to take Constantinople. This set up a climatic 50-year struggle for mastery of the Mediterranean ending at Lepanto (1571). Lepanto marked not only the beginning of Ottoman decline, but also the last largest, but last great battle of galleys. While a hugely impotant battle, the locus of European history had already shifted West to the Atlantic. The countries of Western Europe had opened sea routes to Asia and begun to collonize the Americas. Mastery of the Atlantic would be the cental issue in subsequent European history. Air warfare emerged in the 20th century and was particularly important in World war II, but military strategists at the outbreak of the War had not yet worked out just how to employ air power.
Mastery of technology throughout history has played a critical role in determining military success. This began in the stone age with flint napping and other technologies. Mastery of metals, first bronze revolutionized warfare. Broze weapons were, however, expensive. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Relativey low melting points made them easy to work with, but bioth are relativeky rare metals. This limited the size of ancient armies and it meant that small military aristocracies controlled peasant masses after the Agriculturl Revolution. The chariot became the central weapon of the ancient battlefield. The horse wasnot yet critical because without stiruops, it coukld not be used to its full potential. A major step forwad was the development of iron technology. Iron has a much higher meting point than copper and tin, requiring advaced technology. Iron is, however, a uch more common metal and producing iron weaponry was less expensive making it possible to equip much larger armies. And steel technology soon developed. This mean some consideration had to be given to the wider population. The long spears of the Greek Hopelites and short swords of the Roman Legions cut a swath through ancient battlefields. Medievakl knights armored themselves which again limited the size of armies. The English long bow began the democrazatiion of armies. English yeoman bowmen decimated the French aristiocracy. It is no accudet that it would be in Enland that democracy would reappear in Europe. Medieval nobels retreated behind castle walls to priotect their fiefdoms. They were first attacked by seige towers and catapults. The Fedal system began to decline once gunpowder made cannons possible, castles no longer protected small fiefdoms. Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, but they for some reason never developed its miitary power. With gunpowder and steel, modern weapon systems begin to develop. We have begin to develop sections on some of the conventional weaponry used in secific wars, including the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. CBW is not new to warfare. These weapons had been used such ancient times. Rotten or diseased carcases were catapulted into besieged coties. Some times it was inadvertent, such as the spread of disease by Europeans in the Americas. CW was developed by the Germans and first used in World War I. The World War I chemical agents, however, rather primitive. The Germans in the inter-War period began developing much more deasly nerve agents. Biological and chemical weapons, often refrred to as Weaons of Mass Destruction (WMD). became a huge issue during World War II, although usage was limited. The Japanese also had an active program and actually used both biological and chemical agents in china, primarily in China. BW was not used. Thus CBW terrified the public before Wotld War II, but were not given much attention in the public mind during the Cold War.
War developed along diffeent lines in various regions. In China the idea of a united Empire became seen as the natural order of things (3rd century BC). Thus the Chinese built the Great Wall to keep the Steppe prople out and wars brwtween the Chinese themselves ceased. The Rise of Rome in the West started Europe down this same path, but the defeat of the Legions in Tutonberg Forest stopped the expansion of Rome (1st century AD). Abd the Brbarian invasions shatereed Europe into a numbe of competing a warring kingdomes. Pope Urban initiated the Crusade in part to divert warring Christian nobility from g\fighting each other. Even in the often idealized Renisance, terriblewars plagued Europe. It was anage of constant warfare. One author describes Renaisance armis as trrible monsters, devouring food and supplies and terriizing civilian population. [Martines] Savage fighting was intensified by first new destructive weapons and then the addition of religion to the equation of war. The terrible religious wars (16th century) were followed by efforts in the Enlightenment to develop rules of war to limit destructiveness and civilian casualties. his had some effect until the rise of the otalitraiand (Stalin and Hitler) in the 20th century. In the after mth of World War II, Europe has began a process of integration. We know less about war fare in the Indian Subcontinent. War in the pre-Colombian Anericas had some inteesting features. The Aztecs wagedwar in largemneaure to obtain captives to sacrifice. War in the Islamic world was not specifically to expand the faith, but that was one consequence. As the Muslim states declined they turned to privacy and kidnapping.
There have been many great military commanders in history. The commanders at the top of the list according to most military historians would be: Alexandr, Hannibal, and Caesar. After then there is more discussion, but we would suggest men like Attila, Pepin, Charlemagne, Saladin, Geghis Kahn, Barbar, Marlbourgh, Washington, Napoleon, Nelson, Wellington, Jackson, Lee, Grant, Trotsky, Guderian, Zukov, Nimitz, Eisenhower, Patton, and many others. As a result of these men, it was not always the strongest armies and states which survived with profound impacts on history. This is a topic that military historians debate endlessly often influence by nationalist pride than pure military history. It is a debate that will no doubt contiue for ever. Many have been forced or attempted to also deal in statecraft after their military victories. Most but not all of these men gained victory over numerically superior forces. Only one of these men, however, gained victory over an opponent that was both numerically and militarily superior--Admiral Nimitz at Midway. And only three of the great commanders we know of were able to make the transition from battlefied commander to statesmen. Here non-military factors hav to be considered, factors like relations with enemy leaders, capturing enemy political centers, sustaining the army, knowing win to stop fighting and negotiate, and others. The three men that most readily come to mind are all Americans, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower. All three might not be included in a list of the greatest commanders of history, but their military achievements ensured great victories which profoundly affected history and repeated the same success as elected presidents. Many of the other commandes better known for their military exploits failed as statesmen and the empires they conquered were broken up and lost to history after their death. Here we welcome reader comments about our choices or others we should include.
History details countless battles fought over the ages. Many of these battles were of considerable importance, but were not decisive. The British in the American Revolution to their frustration won almost all the battles, but lost the War. The Americans in Viet Nam did win all the battles, but lost the war. There are a small number of battles that have played truly epic or truly decissive roles in determining the history of civilization. Edward Creasy published a thought provoking book in which he identified 15 decisive battles which determined the course of history (1851). He began with Marathon (490 BC) and ended with the land battle Waterloo (1815) ending the Napoleonic Wars. Since Creasy time we might add a few additional battles, although the selection is subject to considerable historical debate. Antitem (1862), Sedan (1870), Verdun (1915), Battle of Britain (1940), Soviet Winter Offensive (1941), Pearl Harbor (1941), and D-Day. Our list of more recent battles is heavily weighted with World War II because so much was at stake. These battles determined the defeat of totalitarian powers that would have created a radically different and in many ways horific world order that would have destroyed Western civilization. Perhaps no struggle was of greater importance since the Mongul Invasions of the 13th century.
There have in history not only been wars and battles of great importance, but ther have also been military organizations that played a major role in history. The most obvious was the Roman Legion which for centuries served as the foundation of the Pax Romana and the Roman Empire. The Mongol armies dominated much of Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe for centuries. The British Royal Navy played a key role in the establishment of the modern world. In the 20th century there are numerous military forces of considerable importance, including the American Navy, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the Red Army, and the Japanese Navy were of great importance. Military forces are designed to project a country's power. Ironically, some powerful military forces can ultimately prove to actually reduce a country's security. The best edxample here is Kaiser Wilhelm's highseas fleet.
Military apparel is one interesting aspect of military history as well as battle. And at least in modern times, military styles have played an important role in men and boys fashions. Our knowledge of military uniforms of early cvilizations varies depended on their archeological and sculptural prowess. Thise civilizations that left buildings decorated with sculpture give us important insites on military iniforms. Art often did not survive the ages with a few exceptions with burial trditions that preserved at like the Egyptians and Etruscans. And civilizations levaing a literary heritage like Greece and Rome tell us much more.
Uniforms only became possible with the dawn of civilization and the wealth created by agriculture as opposed to hunter-gathering societies. Uniforms developed for several reasons. Early unifiormd depending on the society could help express familial pride. Their were obvious military reasons. The uniform helped the front-line soldiers differentiate themselves from their enemies. And as aemies increased un size, the unifirms were helpful in command and control porposes, helping commanders identify their and opposing units from a distance. And uniforms as armies grew larger in the Iron Age allowed commanders to ensure that the ordiary soldier,commonly men of modest means, were properly equipped. The uniforms appearing on battlefields and changed dramatically over time and affected by the type of soldiers and the different miitary missions. Even in modern times, nit all soldiers had uniforms, although officers usually did. Despite the wide range of uniforms some elements and components have remained essentially unchanged. One major difference is that many historic uniforms were showy and used bright colors intended for recognition ar a distance. Modern combat uniform are more intended to camafloge the soldier and make him hard to see at distance. The turing point in this aproach ws Wold War I and imrovements in the killing power of weapons requiring changes in tactics.
The subject of intelligence and espionage is a fascinating aspect of warfare. We suspect that inteligence gsthering and espionage is as old as war itself. We have little information on early intelligence gathering. We have not yet pursued this topic in an importaht way. We have some information on the Revolutionary war and World war I. We have begun to work on World War II intelligence. Intelligence played a greater role in World War II than in any other previous war because as the result of developing radio (wireless) technology, a huge quantity of military information was broadcast and thus available both to friendly and enemy forces. Inteligence gathering during the Cold war was also very important. Because of the nture of a closed totalitarian soiciety, the Soviets proved more effective at Espionage ghan the West.
Ennumerable wars commonly followed by peace treaties punctuate humn history. Most treaties proved to be mere armed truces. Others have been major turing points in history, marking important historical eras. One of the most important was the Peace of Westphalia (1648) ending the 30 Years War. The Treaty of Paris (1783) availed the new American Republic half a continent. The Congress of Vienna (1815) esestablished the old monarchial regimes after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The World War I peace treaties could have brought a new era of self determinism to Europe, but proved to be mere cease fires leding to an even more terrible war. There was a brief hope that the Munich Accords would stabilize Euripe, byr Hitler wanted much more than the Sudetenland. The Yalta and Potsdam accords effectively divided Europe between Soviet Communism and Western democracy and free enerprise. Other treaties created both military and ecomomic allies. The Treaty of Rome (19??) has led ultimately to the shaping of modern Europe and the European Union.
War and conflict is so pervasice in human society that varius authors have suggested this is a flaw in human nature. That is an important if largely unknowable issue. One moden version of this discussion is DNA. Men have adestinctive Y chromosome which they inherit from their father. Sexual selection appears to drive men to dominate others a drive to power. Men with eeak Y chromosmes are able to bread less and that Y chromosme will eventually disappear. Men with strng Y chromosomes bread more. There are some 16 million men in Asia today with the same Y chromosome. They may be the ancestor of Genghis Kahn. One authorcspeculatesthat warfare is in effect the result of aggressive Y chrmosomes struggling to propagate themselves. The same author also describes a genetic war between the Y chromosomes and the mother's mitochondrial DNA. Some mitochondrial DNA may be toxic to sons. This is reflected in families which constantly produce more dauhters than sons or in male homosexuality. [Sykes] All this is highly speculative at this time. But in our rapidly improving understanding of heredity and genetics we may in the future have actual scientific data on questions that philodsophers have struggled with since the dawn of civilization.
Our modern world has evolved in Western Europe and its North American offshoot. It is basically the history of Western civilization. This is to extent politically incorrect as many in the academic community are committed to the ideology of cultural relativity. They believe it is an exercize in xenepobia to focus to intently on Western civilization. It is, however, asimple fact that the West has invented modernity. This is not to say that all aspects of Western civilization are valuable contributions to humsan history. After all, 20th century totalitarianism (both Communism and Fascism) are artefacts of Western Civilization. But they were both threads that were defeated by the major threads of Western civilization and this from the very beginning in ancient Greece centered on the importance of the individual. The paradox of Western civilization was present at this very beginning. The Greek focus on the individal spring frim a slave society. From this focus on the individual came both democracy and an explosion of learning, including scientific insights that would not be replicated until the Renaisance. To the Greek foundation, the Romans added another important element of Western civilization--the rule of law. With the fall of Rome and the Germanic barbarian invasions, the ancient basis of Western civilization was essentially lost. It was not recovered until the Italian Renaissance stimulated interest in the classical texts. And the result was a shift in Ruropean thought from God back to the individual. The Reformation in Germany began as a largely theocratic and nationalistic movement. But there we a range of collateral impacts. It prevented the Roman Church from limiting intelectual discourse, at least in northern Europe. It also as a result of translations of the Bible into the developing "vulgar" languages, stimulated literacy and learning. The Enlightenment took the next step, questioning both religion and absolutism. French phiosophes played a major role in the Enlightenment, but English thinkers like Locke also plyed an important role. The French and British engaged in a world-wide
struggle for dominance in the 18th century which was not finally settled until Trafalgur (1805) and Waterloo (1815). As a result, it would be the English-speaking people that would essentially invent modernity. France was the larger, stronger country, but it was crippled by absolutism, including the Bonapartes, the Revolutionary Terror, and the Bonapartes. France did not overthrow its absolutist traditions until defeat in the Franco-Prussian War gave birth the the Third REpublic. It is no accident that the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain. The developing democracy, relatively open society, and capitalist system all contributed to the Industrial Revolution. And the Developments in Russia and Germany led to terrible totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century. Britain and France were unable to stand up to these totalitarian regimes by themselves. But Britain's victory over the French allowed them to implant British political traditions in North America and the combined forces of the English-speaking people made possible the victory over totalitarnism.
HBC began as a children's fashion site. We have continued this strong focus on fashion and plan to do so. Gradually we deciced to branch out and use the fashion information as part of a wider discussion of childhood. A reader recently commented that HBC is a massive collection of facts. She is quite right. Our plan has become to ammass a huge archive of children's clothing in different countries and eras and then to use this as the basis for a larger discussion of childhood. Another reader asks us when we began to address historical events like World war II and the Civil Rights Movement why we were doing that. Of course the answer is very simple. While these topics have been addressed in detail by historians, few historians have focused on children in these events and how they were affected. Another reader suggested that we shy away from controversial topics. We have lost some readers because of these controversies we addressed, but we do try to make HBC a forum for readers with a wide range of views. Several European readers in particular have suggested that the past is past and does not need to be dug up. Our view is that readers with that attitude probably don't want to spend time on a history site. Even more to the point, we believe that the clatimistic events of the 20th Century are not well understood and thus we have sought to create an archive with reliable factual information.
The question of violence in human affairs is an interesting one. It touches on the intrinsic nature of man and the institutions that he creates. The widely-held popular concept is that violence has been increasing and that modern times, especially the 20th century, was the most violent in human history. And even today in the 21st, the 24-hour electronic news cycle constantly reports on crime, war, and terrorism around the world. Certainl the wars of the 20th century, especially World War I and World War II, were the greatest conflicts ever fought with massive casualties. And this incuded especially horendous numbers of civilians during World War II. And the totalitarian powers (both Fascist and Communists) of the 20th centuries killed huge numbers of people. Asessing violence, however, is more complicated. Here both population and technology complicate the discussion. Surely in absolute body count, the 20h century has been the most violent. But surely a more accurate comparitive assesment would involve the percentage of people killed. The Bible describes very violent times. The Huns and Mongols depopulated whole areas. And because of the growth of population, the 20th century in relative percentage of people killed from violence has not been the most deadly. The other variable factor is technology. And here the assessment entails ethical questions. Is violence only measured from the body count. Which is the most violent act, a cave man bashing in the head of a rival over the carcass of a hare or an Allied air attack during World war II designed to end the capacity of the NAZIs to wage war. Here we get int the point of the violence. A few historians contend that that violence has in fact been diminising for millenia in human affairs and that not only the 21st century, but even the 20th century have been relatively peaceful times. Since the end of World War II there has been peace in Europe and the wars that vhave occurred have been much more limited. One factot here hs been peace-keeping efforts. One historian argues that peave keeping has been more effectove than commonly believed. [Goldstein] One journalist writes, "Man's inhumanity to man has long been a subject for moralization. With the knowledge that something has driven it down. we can also treat it as a matter of cause and effect. Instead of asking, 'Why is ther war?' we might ask, 'Why is there peace?' We can obsess not just over what we have been doing wrong but also over what we have been doing right. Because we have been doing something right, and it would be good to know what, exactly, it is." [Pinker] A key factor here is that both democracy and capitalism have taken decesions out of the hands of aristocratic elites that are all too send common people and state resources for war. The Markxists argued that socialism would end wars that captalists cause. In fact the Communists have along with the Fascists been the major pervaors of violence in the 20th century. It has been the liberal decmoracies with capitalist economies or mixed economies that have resisted war.
Cook, Michael. A Brief History f the Human Race (Norton, 2003), 385p.
Creasey, Edward. The Fifteen Decisive Battles of The World from Marathon to Waterloo (London, 1851).
Goldstein, Josuha S. Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (2011), 400p.
Marines, Lauro. Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 (2013), 336p.
Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declines (201), 832p.
Sykes, Bryan. Adam's Curse: A Future without Men (Norton, 2004), 311p.
Wilson, A.N. The Victorians (Norton), 724p.
Navigate the Children in History Web Site:
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class] [Royalty]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]