Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Global History of War

A Global History of War: From Assyria to the Twenty-First Century

Gérard Chalind
Michèle Mangin-woods
David Woods
Foreword by R. Bin Wong
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Global History of War
    Book Description:

    While many books examine specific wars, few study the history of war worldwide and from an evolutionary perspective.A Global History of Waris one of the first works to focus not on the impact of war on civilizations, but rather on how civilizations impact the art and execution of war. World-renowned scholar Gérard Chaliand concentrates on the peoples and cultures who have determined how war is conducted and reveals the lasting historical consequences of combat, offering a unique picture of the major geopolitical and civilizational clashes that have rocked our common history and made us who we are today. Chaliand's questions provoke a new understanding of the development of armed conflict. How did the foremost non-European empires rise and fall? What critical role did the nomads of the Eurasian steppes and their descendants play? Chaliand illuminates the military cultures and martial traditions of the great Eurasian empires, including Turkey, China, Iran, and Mongolia. Based on fifteen years of research, this book provides a novel military and strategic perspective on the crises and conflicts that have shaped the current world order.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95943-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Maps
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    Military history has long been a popular subject for general readers, at least the male gender among us. Most everyone regrettably recognizes that war has shaped the fates of peoples and places in the dimly distant past and is violently visible in our global present. For all its manifest importance, scholars have, however, produced very little research intended to anchor our appreciation of contemporary military issues by considering the causes and consequences of war historically. Not surprisingly, much of what has been written about war historically concerns European examples, whether ancient, medieval, or modern, including wars both among Europeans and...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Chapter 1 of this book reviews the different types of war from its origins to the present day. The different forms of war are briefly described: ritual war, wars of conquest, intracommunal conflicts, wars waged against “foreign” peoples considered ripe for conquest, such as the wars between nomads and sedentary populations, and colonial wars such as those of the Americas. And finally, it addresses the cruelest wars: civil wars, whether religious or otherwise.

    Chapter 2 describes the first military empire, that of the Assyrians, who subjugated the entire Fertile Crescent and Egypt, that is, the quasitotality of the Ancient Orient....

  7. CHAPTER 1 Overview: War and History
    (pp. 4-47)

    Can we characterize the strategies that defined war on the Eurasian continent from the steppes of North Asia to the Mediterranean in the south over the long period from the fifth century B.C.E. to the fifteenth century C.E.?

    From the fourth century B.C.E. until the eighteenth century C.E., China was always coveted by the nomads on its northern border. Chinese civilization, which developed around the Yellow River during the third millennium B.C.E., was already the object of northern nomadic attacks even before Chinese unification (221 B.C.E.). Under the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. to 219 C.E.), the focus of Chinese culture...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The First Military Empire: The Assyrians
    (pp. 48-54)

    From the time of the first city-states, at the dawn of history, such Uruk, Sargon, Akkad, and Babylon, war was one of the most important functions. The first military empire was incontestably that of the Assyrians. Historians of the ancient Near East call it “Neo-Assyrian.” Assyria lived through two distinct periods: the first from the fourteenth to eleventh century B.C.E., when it already evinces martial skills, and second, Neo-Assyrian period from the ninth to the seventh century B.C.E. During this period, Assyria created an empire through a series yearly campaigns. It conquered all of Mesopotamia, part of western Iraq, southeastern...

  9. CHAPTER 3 The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
    (pp. 55-99)

    The Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, received relatively little attention from Western historians, with exception of a small group of Byzantine specialists. Indeed, the adjective “Byzantine” is often used to refer to matters that are too complex arcane to merit study. Nevertheless, “Byzantine quarrels” defined theology during the six hundred years that preceded the definitive separation of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches 1054. The Byzantine Empire itself lasted nearly a thousand years the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476). It survived so long of an innovative political and military strategy that enabled it...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Arabs
    (pp. 100-107)

    The first Arab expansion was prodigious. Soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (632), the Islamized Arabs conquered the Sassanid Empire and took Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa from the Eastern Roman Empire. Within a century, the Arabs occupied territories extending from Spain to the borders of India and had defeated Chinese troops of the Tang Empire at Talas (751). This expansion was swift and militarily exceptional. Except in Spain, it was also durable, because it was religious.

    Islam first unified the Bedouin nomads of the Arabian Peninsula and converted Arab city dwellers and merchants. The Bedouin were...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Nomads of the Eurasian Steppes
    (pp. 108-126)

    The military importance of the nomadic populations of the Eurasian steppes for the history of the Middle East and Europe has been ignored until recently, except for René Grousset’s seminal book,The Empire of the Steppes.*

    I argued many years ago that these nomadic populations had exerted a dominant influence on Eurasian civilization for more than two years, fueled by a chronic geopolitical antagonism between nomadic and sedentary populations. Throughout history, no group had militarily influence on Eurasia than the waves of nomads, from Scythians to the Mongols, who swept through the civilizations of and the Middle Ages. Their impact...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Seljuks, the Mamluks, and the Crusades
    (pp. 127-140)

    The Seljuks created an empire soon after leaving the steppes. By the middle of the eleventh century, when they reached their zenith, these Turkish-speaking people had created a Persianized sultanate that acted as the champions of the caliph and Sunni orthodoxy. They played an important role during the Crusades, particularly the First Crusade, where their military prowess made them the Christians’ most feared adversaries.

    When they advanced in the Orient, the crusaders had little idea that these territories had just been conquered by recently settled nomadic conquerors: the Seljuk emirs of Syria. After the death of Malik Shah (1092), the...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Mongol Empire
    (pp. 141-150)

    From the age of eighteen, it would take Genghis Khan (born 1165) nearly twenty years to subjugate all of the Mongol tribes his authority.* Until then, the Mongols, riven by interclan played only a modest role in the steppes of North Asia.

    The Mongol army was divided into clan-based fighting units a decimal system (10, 100, 1,000). A man who left his group his life. After he was selected as supreme chief by the Kurultai, great assembly of the Mongols, Genghis Khan was concerned with the tribal divisions that had traditionally weakened the He therefore created intertribal fighting units meant...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Timur the Lame
    (pp. 151-155)

    Timur the Lame, or Tamerlane, was a Muslim, born in 1336 into the turcophone Mongol Barlas tribe in Transoxiana (present-day Uzbekistan). He was not of royal lineage and paid allegiance to a Chagatai prince. As customary, in his rise to power, he first had to gain the support of his fellow tribesmen, then seek alliance with others. That done, the rest of the nomad tribes would join whoever possessed power and prestige.

    Timur established his authority over the Barlas population, which was sedentary, whereas most neighboring tribes remained nomadic. His ascension to power was gradual. To ensure the loyalty of...

  15. CHAPTER 9 The Ottomans
    (pp. 156-169)

    While the Byzantine Empire was confronting rival states in the Balkans, Turkic principalities were growing in power in Asia Minor, including the Karasids in the south, near Constantinople, and the Osmanlis or Ottomans who had been expelled from Central Asia during the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century.

    After the decline of the Mongol Empire, the Anatolian Turks assumed the leadership of military expeditions and raids undertaken by so-calledghazisto extend Islamic domination through conquest. The modest Ottoman principality of the thirteenth century was enlarged across the Dardanelles in the fourteenth century with the complicity of the Byzantines. Although...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Safavid Persia
    (pp. 170-175)

    The Safavid dynasty began with the victory of Shah Ismael in 1501 the Ak Koyunlu, a tribal Turkic confederation that was powerful Persia until it was defeated by the Ottomans in 1473. After the death its leader, Uzun Hassan, this confederation was torn apart by internal struggles.

    Like that of the Kara Koyunlu, a rival Turkic confederation based eastern Anatolia, which Timur had defeated, the Ak Koyunlu army the last army in Persia based on the Turco-Mongol nomad model. consisted essentially of a cavalry of mounted archers supported more modest infantry (in a ratio of 2.5:1). After being defeated by...

  17. CHAPTER 11 The Ming and Chinese Politico-Military Traditions
    (pp. 176-184)

    China’s foreign policy was for a long time defined by its long and northern border, which was subject to frequent incursions the nomads of the steppes. The nomads would often settle in the areas of the country, taking advantage of Chinese domestic problem They would then gradually become sinicized, before being swept away by other new nomadic invaders. China because of its cultural solidity and demography. Chinese influence in north would expand under energetic dynasties such as the Han, Tang, and the early Ming, the first post-Mongol dynasty (1368–1644).

    China, that is, the China of eighteen provinces, extended to...

  18. CHAPTER 12 The Manchu and the End of the Nomads
    (pp. 185-186)

    The Manchu were the last nomadic group to conquer a major civilization. They were descendants of the Jurchens, who had previously conquered northern China in the twelfth century. After forty-five year of war, the Manchu took Peking (Beijing) in 1644. They would remain in power until 1911.

    Unlike other nomad populations that invaded China, the were neither Turks nor Mongols. They were hunters rather than shepherds. They occupied the area northeast of the Great Wall in Manchuria. They were involved in a quarrel of succession seized power from the Ming. An exceptional leader called Nurhaci (1559–1626) laid the basis...

  19. CHAPTER 13 The Mughals and Islam in India
    (pp. 187-192)

    Muslims from Central Asia had dominated northern India since the tenth century. Persian cultural influence prevailed among them, and their military commanders were of Turkic or Mongol—or, more rarely, Persian or Afghan—descent. Their military strategy was typically nomad, with the addition of new techniques acquired from the sedentary populations of Persia. The military elite obtained lands from the sultan of Delhi and were expected in exchange to participate actively in his campaigns.

    The Mughal dynasty began with the Turco-Mongol leader Babur (1482–1530). Babur spoke and wrote Chagatai, a Turkish dialect influenced by Arabic and Persian.* The Uzbeks...

  20. CHAPTER 14 Russia and the End of the Tatars
    (pp. 193-199)

    The Mongols dominated Russia for two and a half centuries. The seemed to turn when Prince Dmitri won the battle of Kulikovo over Golden Horde, or Kipchak khanate, in 1380, but it was an ephemeral victory. After Kulikovo, Tokhtamysh, the khan of the White and the Blue Horde, assumed the leadership of the Golden Horde near Sea of Azov. Having reunited the territories that the Horde had formerly ruled, Tokhtamysh then attacked Russia and demanded tribute. When was refused, he ravaged Suzdal and Vladimir and then burned Moscow, Prince Dmitri’s city, to teach him a lesson. The grand duke of...

  21. CHAPTER 15 The Ascent of Europe
    (pp. 200-211)

    The history of triumphant Europe might be said to start either with the discovery of America in 1492 by Christopher Columbus or with Hernán Cortés’s conquest of Mexico in 1521. The latter date seems preferable, since the Reformation had begun (1517), and Magellan had just finished circumnavigating the world (1522). The European victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571 marked the beginning of the naval supremacy of Catholic Europe in the Mediterranean. In the sixteenth century, Europe took a lead that would increase remarkably during the following centuries, notwithstanding the continuing power of the Ottomans under Suleiman the Magnificent,...

  22. CHAPTER 16 The Time of Revolutions
    (pp. 212-224)

    With the exception of a few classical regional wars (e.g., the Into-Pakistani, Israeli-Arab, Korean, and Iran-Iraq wars, and the Falkland conflict between Britain and Argentina), twentieth-century wars mostly irregular conflicts. It was an era of decolonization, and wars played a major role.

    If guerrilla war is a war where bands of men wearing no uniform to use surprise and harassment to weaken a regular army, the war tries, by the same military means, to take control of a in order to seize power. The ideas of emancipation and nationalism, aided by improved organizational techniques, colonial and semi-colonialized populations to liberate...

  23. CHAPTER 17 Guerrilla Warfare
    (pp. 225-243)

    The origin of the word “guerrilla”—small war—derives from the Spanish rebellion against Napoleon’s occupation (1807–14). Guerrilla as a technique, is immemorial, but whereas many ancient treatises devoted to the art of conventional war in ancient China, Greece, Rome, and Constantinople, the first treatises on guerrilla war were published by French and German authors only in the nineteenth century. These were written in response, in part, to the impact of the bloody Spanish rebellion on the Napoleonic armies, and in response to other guerrilla-like insurrections faced by the French in the Vendée and Tyrol. It been said that...

  24. CHAPTER 18 From Total War to Asymmetrical Conflict
    (pp. 244-250)

    On the eve of World War I, with theoreticians such as Alfred Thayer Mahan, Charles Ardant du Picq, Jean Colin, and Friedrich von Bernhardi, strategic thinking had developed considerably. But reality Cantrump trump theories. None of the theoreticians foresaw the immobilization the trenches and slaughter that characterized the 1914–18 conflict. To my knowledge, Charles de Gaulle provided the most accurate description of the surprise of the soldiers and their officers when, in August 1914, they encountered the devastating effects of firepower at the beginning of World War I:

    As soon as he arrives, the recruit is absorbed by multiple...

  25. Chapter 19 Conclusion
    (pp. 251-258)

    All societies are to some extent self-centered and provincial, with varying understanding of other cultures and traditions. This still remains true in an era of commercial globalization: international trade has increased much more than mutual cultural understanding.

    Until the end of the nineteenth century, the United States remained focused on its continental expansion and global free trade. Americans, protected by two oceans, followed the advice of George Washington’s farewell address and kept out of European conflicts. This spared Americans from the balance-of-power concerns that so preoccupied European nations. American exceptionalism further limited the lessons that the United States might have...

  26. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 259-262)
  27. Index
    (pp. 263-294)