Impact Of War Essay Intro

Post war effects are widely spread. and can be long term or short term.[2] Soldiers experience war differently than civilians, although either suffer in times of war, and women and children suffer unspeakable atrocities in particular. In the past decade, up to two million of those killed in armed conflicts were children.[2] The widespread trauma caused by these atrocities and suffering of the civilian population is another legacy of these conflicts, the following creates extensive emotional and psychological stress.[3] Present-day internal wars generally take a larger toll on civilians than state wars. This is due to the increasing trend where combatants have made targeting civilians a strategic objective.[2] A state conflict is an armed conflict that occurs with the use of armed force between two parties, of which one is the government of a state.[4] "The three problems posed by intra‐state conflict are the willingness of UN members, particularly the strongest member, to intervene; the structural ability of the UN to respond; and whether the traditional principles of peacekeeping should be applied to intra‐state conflict".[5] Effects of war also include mass destruction of cities and have long lasting effects on a country's economy.[6] Armed conflict have important indirect negative consequences on, infrastructure, public health provision, and social order.[7] These indirect consequences are often overlooked and underappreciated.

Defining armed conflict[edit]

Armed conflict is not clearly defined internationally. According to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, common article 2 states that "all cases of declared war or of any armed conflict that may arise between two or more high contracting parties, even if the state of war is not recognized, the convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a high contracting party even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance".[8]International humanitarian law[9] works to protect the rights and dignity of civilians during peace and armed conflict with parties of the conflict having legally binding obligations concerning the rights of persons not involved in the conflict.[10] Current day conflicts continue to occur with breaches of human rights and destruction of property continuing to happen due to state interests.[9]

On the economy[edit]

See also: Military Keynesianism

The economy may suffer devastating impacts during and after a time of war. According to Shank, "negative unintended consequences occur either concurrently with the war or develop as residual effects afterwards thereby impeding the economy over the longer term".[11] In 2012 the economic impact of war and violence was estimated to be eleven percent of gross world product (GWP) or 9.46 trillion dollars.[12] Everyday activities of a community or country are disrupted and property may be damaged. When people become misplaced, they cannot continue to work or keep their businesses open, causing damages to the economy of countries involved.[12] A government may decide to direct money to fund war efforts, leaving other institutions with little or no available budget.

In some cases war has stimulated a country's economy (World War II is often credited with bringing America out of the Great Depression). According to the World Bank the event that conflicts subside in the country, and in the event that there is a transition to democracy the following will result in an increase economic growth by encouraging investment of the country and its people, schooling, economic restructuring, public-good provision, and reducing social unrest.[13] Conflict very rarely has positive effects on an economy according to the world bank "Countries bordering conflict zones are facing tremendous budgetary pressure. The World Bank estimates that the influx of more than 630,000 Syrian refugees have cost Jordan over USD 2.5 billion a year. This amounts to 6 percent of GDP and one-fourth of government's annual revenues".[13] One of the most commonly cited benefits for the economy is higher GDP growth. This has occurred throughout all of the conflict periods, other than in the Afghanistan and Iraq war period. Another benefit commonly mentioned is that WWII established the appropriate conditions for future growth and ended the great depression. In previous cases, such as the wars of Louis XIV, the Franco-Prussian War, and World War I, warfare serves only to damage the economy of the countries involved. For example, Russia's involvement in World War I took such a toll on the Russian economy that it almost collapsed and greatly contributed to the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

As a result of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Sri Lanka's military spending as a percentage of GDP, increased from 1.6 percent in 1983 to 3.5 in 2008 and reached an all-time peak at 5.9 percent of GDP in 1995 representing over 20 percent of the government's total spending.[14] Until the war, arms were not nearly a significant amount of government spending and their defense personnel increased from 22,000 in 1989 to 213,000 in 2008.[14] After the war began, however, arms were imported annually in response to increasing violence. By the year 2000, the Sri Lankan government's "import bill for arms was around $US 274 million", a record high during the war.[14]

Destruction of infrastructure[edit]

See also: Infrastructure

Destruction of infrastructure can create a catastrophic collapse in the social interrelated structure, infrastructure services, education and health care system.[15] Destruction of schools and educational infrastructure have led to a decline in education among many countries affected by war.[6] If certain infrastructural elements are significantly damaged or destroyed, it can cause serious disruption of the other systems such as the economy.[15] This includes loss of certain transportation routes in a city which could make it impossible for the economy to function properly and also for people to be evacuated.

Labor force[edit]

The labor force of the economy also changes with the effects of war. The labor force is affected in a multitude of ways most often due to the drastic loss of life, change in population, the labor force size shrinking due to the movement of refugees and displacement and the destruction of infrastructure which in turn allows for a deterioration of productivity.[16]

When men head off to war, women take over the jobs they left behind. This causes an economic shift in certain countries because after the war these women usually want to keep their jobs. The shortage of labor force during the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War enabled women to enter fields of employment that had previously been closed to them and absorbed them into a large number of much-needed jobs. In Women and Work in Iran, Povey points, "The Iran–Iraq war reduced the supply of male labor is one factor. The war increased the number of women seeking work or resisting exclusion. Many women even occupied important positions for the first time".[17] This can also be seen in the Second Liberian Civil War, and in the Rwandan genocide.[18][19] Women in both conflicts took over their husbands jobs due to the effects of the war, and received more economic equality as a result.[18][19]

On society[edit]

"International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of war and the law of armed conflict, is the legal framework applicable to situations of armed conflict and occupation. As a set of rules and principles it aims, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict".[9]  International humanitarian law works to limit the effects of war and protect the people who do not participate in such hostilities. Most wars have resulted in a significant loss of life.[9] Conflict characterizes a major obstacle for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly for the universal completion of primary education and gender equality in education.[20] "The Millennium Development goals are the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They are also basic human rights-the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security".[21] There can be no doubt that armed conflict directly kills, injures, and harms more men than women in that combatants are predominantly male.[7] Armed conflict has many indirect consequences such as on health and survival. "Armed conflict both generates conditions for increased morbidity and mortality".[7]

During Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, more French soldiers died of typhus than were killed by the Russians.[22] Felix Markham thinks that 450,000 crossed the Neman on 25 June 1812, of whom less than 40,000 recrossed in anything like a recognizable military formation.[23] More soldiers were killed from 1500–1914 by typhus than from all military action during that time combined.[24] In addition, if it were not for the modern medical advances there would be thousands more dead from disease and infection.


Displacement or forced migration results most often during a time of war and can adversely affect both the community and an individual. When a war breaks out, many people flee their homes in fear of losing their lives and their families, and as a result, they become misplaced either internally or externally.[25] Those who are internally displaced face a direct threat because they do not receive the rights that a refugee may receive and are not eligible for protection under an international system.[26] Victims of internal displacements are symptoms of war that are often motivated by communal hatred based on ethnic background, race, or religious views.[25] External displacement are individuals who are forced out of the borders of their country into another as seen with the Syrian Refugees. The following may have a severe economic impact on a country.

In 2015, 53 percent of refugees worldwide originated from Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria.[25] In a Global Trends Report by the UNHRC, approximately 65 million people around the world have been forced from their home.[25] Out of this number, 21.3 million are refugees, over half of the demographic under the age of 18.[25] Some of the top countries absorbing these displaced peoples are Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (1.1 million), and Turkey (2.5 million). In times of violence, people are displaced from their homes and seek places where they are welcome, periodically meeting places they are not welcome.

In response to an influx of refugees and asylum seekers from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sri Lanka, Australia initiated a controversial plan in 2001 titled the Pacific Solution which called for all asylum seekers arriving by boat to be sent to the small and barren island Nauru.[27] Asylum seekers were housed in crowded tents and lived under a constant threat of running out of resources, especially water.[27] Individuals were kept in the detention center until their refugee status was granted or denied.[27] Chris Evans, former immigration minister stated the Pacific Solution as being “a cynical, costly and ultimately unsuccessful exercise,” and was ended under a newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007.[28] In February 2008, after the Pacific Solution was ended, the final members of a group of 82 refugees detained on Nauru were granted residency rights and resettled in Australia according to a humanitarian resettlement program.[28]

In the case of the Sri Lankan Civil War, displacement had a high chance to impoverish those affected, but women and children were found to be the most vulnerable to the burden of displacement.[29] A Sri Lankan female head of household earns less than a household that has a male head. After men and women became displaced, however, females lost 76% of their income and males lost 80%.[29] While the lost income is within a relatively close percentage, females were more likely, on average to fall below the official poverty line.[29] Male household by comparison were able to stay above the line even after becoming displaced. In a post-displacement setting, male headed households had more earned income than female headed households.[29] Males benefit from manual labor, carpentry, masonry, and government services while females had earned their income from informal work. Informal work for females is more difficult in a post-displacement setting where they do not have access to the same tools as they did pre-displacement.

The Palestinian people have suffered from displacement as a result of armed conflict and the military occupation. The largest displacement caused due to war occurred in 1947, after the United Nations agreed to have Palestine divided into two states. It later became the Israeli decision that Palestinian refugees no longer were permitted to return to their lands unless it was to reunify a family.[30] "Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem".[31]


Oftentimes when a country is in an economic crisis there is an increase in poverty which results in the decline of education.[6] Over half of the world’s children that are out of school are assessed to live in conflict-affected fragile states.[32] According to the UNESCO report “The groups most negatively affected by conflict were those that suffered from multiple exclusion, for example based on gender, area of residence, household wealth, language, and ethnicity”.[32] One predominantly damaging, effect of conflict on education is the proliferation of attacks on schools with children, teachers and school buildings become the targets of violence.[32] During times of war teachers and students often suffer from death or displacement. This prevents the opening of schools and increases teachers absenteeism. In the case of Iraq, boys were pulled out of school to work for their families, and therefore the education gap for men and women shrank.[6]


See also: Wartime sexual violence

Conflict negatively impacts women and men, which often results in gender-specific difficulties that are not recognized or addressed by mainstream communities across the globe (Baden and Goetz, 1997). War impacts women differently as they are more likely to die from indirect causes as opposed to direct causes. "Women and girls suffered disproportionately during and after war, as existing inequalities were magnified, and social networks broke down, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations".[33] Men during war are more likely to die from direct causes such as direct violence.[7] The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, made women and armed conflict one of most critical areas of concern. It stated that peace is directly linked to equality between men and women and to development post conflict (Beijing Platform for Action). Plumper found that most women live longer when they are in peacetime, when compared to a state that is in armed conflict the gender gap of life expectancy drastically decreases in the male to female ratio.[7] The indirect effects of militarized conflicts' affect access to food, hygiene, health services, and clean water. Women suffer more harshly from the damage to the health as well as overall well being, other infrastructure damages, and the wider economic damage as well as from dislocation during and post-conflict.[7] During a time of war women are often separated from their husbands or lose them as a cost of war. Because of this there is a dramatic economic cost effect on women causing many to bear the entire economic responsibility for their household.[34]

Three of the most common things done by Israeli military occupation includes the apartheid wall, displacement of people, and house demolitions caused by bombings especially in Gaza. This has severe consequences on men and women. As the number of marital disputes rises after a house demolition, women are forced to look for work in order to support the livelihood of their families.[35] Also, there is a large rise in domestic violence that leaves women more vulnerable.[6] Palestinians, particularly women, are unable to access basic services because of the closeness to or route of the apartheid wall, resulting in everyday abuse and suffering as they pass through Israeli checkpoints in order to have such access and admittance.[35]

Long term effects[edit]

During the Thirty Years' War in Europe, for example, the population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[36][37] The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.[38]

Estimates for the total casualties of World War II vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.[39] The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties.[40] The largest number of civilian deaths in a single city was 1.2 million citizens dead during the 872-day Siege of Leningrad. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white American males aged 13 to 50 died in the American Civil War.[41] Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilized in World War I, 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured.[42]


When war strikes it ends up affecting government structures along with the people in power of the government.[18]  Many times, one regime is removed and new forms of government are put into place.[18]  This can be seen in the Second Liberian Civil War where rebels had removed the current leader, Charles Taylor, and with the help of the United Nations deployed a new democratic form of government that stands for equal rights and even has a women president in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.[19][43]  This change in government was also apparent in Rwanda in 1993 when the genocide finally stopped.[43]  The country had shifted from dictatorship to pure democracy and gave both men and women the right to vote.[18]  The country also installed a quota system where a certain number of government seats must belong to women.[18]  The country's quota was 30% of seats, however women now hold 55% of seats from their own merit.[18][43]  These changes in government also changes the way the country behaves economically.[43]

Some scholars, however, have argued that war can have a positive effect on political development.[44]

On state formation[edit]

Political scientist Jeffrey Herbst argues that interstate war is a requisite factor in the formation of strong states.[44] Using Europe's history of state formation as his model, Herbst identifies interstate war as the factor that enabled states to effectively collect revenue and to generate a spirit of nationalism, two results that Herbst considers "crucial developments" in the formation of strong states.[44]:118 War increases both a leader's incentive to establish an efficient system of taxation and the population's willingness to assent to higher taxes.[44]:119–21 The existence of an external threat is also a powerful impetus for the development of a cooperative or unified state.[44]:122 Because the system of revenue collection, increased rate of taxation, and spirit of nationalism generally persist after war ends, war can have long-term consequences on a state's formation.[44]:121–2 This is particularly true of states in regions or periods of consistent warfare because states generally either adapted or were conquered.[44]:120 Herbst postulates that the stability of borders and lack of credible external threats between African states could result in "a new brand of states", those that will "remain permanently weak".[44]:119

Charles Tilly, an American sociologist, political scientist, and historian, claims that within the context of European history, "war makes states."[45] While the purposes of war were to expand territory and to check or overcome neighboring states, the process of war inadvertently engendered European-style state-building. War making resulted in state making in four ways:[45]

  1. War making that culminated in the elimination of local rivals gave rise to one centralized, coercive strong state power that had a large-scale monopoly on violence.
  2. Eventually, this large-scale monopoly on violence held by the state was extended to serve the state's clients or supporters. This encouraged pacification, led to the formation of police forces, and provided protection as a state service.
  3. War making and military expansion would not be possible without extracting resources from the population and accumulating capital. Historically, this led to the establishment of fiscal and accounting institutions to collect taxes from the population to fuel war.
  4. Finally, courts of law, guarantees of rights, and representative institutions were demanded for by the state's populations whose resistance to war making and state making led to concessions being made by the state. This enabled the population to protect their individual property without allowing them to use force, which would compromise the state's monopoly on violence.

War making and the extraction, protection, and state making that followed were interdependent. Tilly ultimately argues that the interactions between these four processes influenced the classic European state making experience.[45]

Case studies[edit]


The effects of conflict and its aftermath in Palestine reveals distinct types of disadvantages that worsen gender relations in both men and women.[30] Increased militarization of the conflict and a rise in gender-based violence focused towards Palestinian as well as Israeli women are major ongoing issues happening in the conflict zone. The longstanding effects of Israeli occupation and policies of siege, confinement and confiscation of land have resulted in social as well as economic crisis for Palestinians.[46] Consequently, the Israeli occupation remains a major problem for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement in labor, and participation in executive governmental bodies. In the light of an increasingly failing security and living conditions most efforts should be directed at everyday survival and creating a more stable environment for the Palestinian peoples. The pushing of gender issues should be at the peak of the political agenda.[47]

World War II[edit]

Main article: World War II

One stark illustration of the effect of war upon economies is the Second World War. The Great Depression of the 1930s ended as nations increased their production of war materials to serve the war effort.[48] The financial cost of World War II is estimated at about a $1.944 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide,[49][50] making it the most costly war in capital as well as lives.

Property damage in the Soviet Union inflicted after the Axis invasion was estimated to a value of 679 billion rubles. The combined damage consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, 2,508 church buildings, 31,850 industrial establishments, 40,000 miles of railroad, 4100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries.[51]


Disability-adjusted life year for war per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[1]

  no data

  less than 100











  more than 8800

  1. ^"Mortality and Burden of Disease Estimates for WHO Member States in 2004". World Health Organization. 
  2. ^ abc"Armed Conflict"(PDF). UN. United Nations. Retrieved 1 December 2016. 
  3. ^"Impact of Armed Conflict on Children". United Nations Report. New York. 1996. 
  4. ^"Definitions." Definitions - Uppsala University, Sweden. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.
  5. ^Hill, Stephen M. "United Nations Peacekeeeieiei Disarmament and Conflict Resolution." United Nations Disarmament Processes in Intra-State Conflict (2005): 1-26. Web.
  6. ^ abcdeGlobalization Denied: Gender and Poverty in Iraq and Palestine, in The Wages of Empire: Neoliberal Policies, Armed Repression, and Women's Poverty, Jennifer Olmsted
  7. ^ abcdefPlümper, Thomas, and Eric Neumayer. "The Unequal Burden of War: The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy." International Organization 60.3 (2006): 723. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.
  8. ^Geneva Conventions. New York: United Nations. 1949. 
  9. ^ abcd"The United Nations and International Humanitarian Law: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations' involvement in the implementation of international humanitarian law". International Committee of the Red Cross. ICRC. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  10. ^"Report of the Office of the High Commissioner on the outcome of the expert consultation on the issue of protecting the human rights of civilians in armed conflict". United Nations. 2010. 
  11. ^Shank, Ph.D. Michael. "Economic Consequences of War on U.S. Economy: Debt, Taxes and Inflation Increase; Consumption and Investment Decrease." The Huffington Post., 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.
  12. ^ ab"The Economic Costs of Violence and Containment." The Institute for Economics and Peace (2012): n. pag. Web.
  13. ^ abEconomic Effects of War and Peace in the Middle East and North Africa." World Bank. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.
  14. ^ abcGanegodage, K. Renuka, and Alicia N. Rambaldi. "Economic Consequences of War: Evidence from Sri Lanka." Journal of Asian Economics 30 (2013): n. pag. Web
  15. ^ abInfrastructure for the 21st Century, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1987
  16. ^Ianchovichina, Elena, and Maros Ivanic. "Economic Effects of the Syrian War and the Spread of the Islamic State on the Levant." Policy Research Working Papers(2014): n. pag. Web. 2016.
  17. ^Rostami-Povey, E.; Poya, M. (2010). Women, work and Islamism. London: Zed Books. 
  18. ^ abcdefgThayer, Adin (2009). "Women in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Facing the Past to Build a Future". Women in Action. 43–7 – via ProQuest. 
  19. ^ abcDerryck, VL (1974). "Liberia: Urban Women And Political Participation". Women's Studies International. 14. 
  20. ^Buckland, Peter. 2005. Reshaping the future: Education and post-conflict reconstruction. Washington: World Bank
  21. ^"Millennium Goals". Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  22. ^The Historical Impact of Epidemic TyphusArchived 2009-11-14 at WebCite. Joseph M. Conlon.
  23. ^See a large copy of the chart here:, but discussed at length in Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (London: Graphics Press, 1992)
  24. ^War and Pestilence. TIME.
  25. ^ abcde"Worldwide displacement hits all-time high as war and persecution increase". UNHCR. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  26. ^"Internally Displaced People". UNHCR. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  27. ^ abcKarlsen, Elibritt. "Australia's Offshore Processing of Asylum Seekers in Nauru and PNG: A Quick Guide to Statistics and Resources." Parliamentary Library: Information Analysis Advice: Parliament of Australia, 20 June 2016. Web.
  28. ^ abAustralia. Immigration and Citizenship. Last Refugees Leave Nauru. By Senator Chris Evans. Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, 8 Feb. 2008. Web.
  29. ^ abcdAmirthalingam, K., and R. W. D. Lakshman. "Impact of Displacement on Women and Female-Headed Households: A Mixed Method Analysis with a Microeconomic Touch." Journal of Refugee Studies 26.1 (2012): 26-46. Web.
  30. ^ abBabst, Gordon, and Nicole Tellier. "One State or Two in Israel/Palestine: The Stress on Gender and Citizenship." Pluto Journals (2012): 70-91. Web.
  31. ^@UNRWA. "Palestine refugees | UNRWA." UNRWA. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.
  32. ^ abc"The hidden crisis - armed conflict and education: The quantitative impact of conflict on education". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2010. 
  34. ^Flamenbaum, Rachel. "The Gendered Impact of War." Sociologists for Women in Society Social Action Committee Fact Sheet (2006): n. pag. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
  35. ^ abTurner, Mandy. "Peacebuilding as Counterinsurgency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." Review of International Studies 41.1 (2015): 73-98. ProQuest.Web. 8 Dec.  2016.
  36. ^The Thirty Years War (1618–48), Alan McFarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap (2003)
  37. ^History of Europe – Demographics. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  38. ^"Population". History Learningsite. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  39. ^"World War II Fatalities". Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  40. ^"Leaders mourn Soviet wartime dead". BBC News. May 9, 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2010. 
  41. ^Lambert, Craig (May–June 2001). "The Deadliest War". Harvard Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  42. ^Kitchen, Martin (2000),The Treaty of Versailles and its Consequences, New York: Longman
  43. ^ abcdGarnett, Tanya Ansahta. "Ellen Is Our Man." International Feminist Journal of Politics 18.1 (2016): 99-118. Women's Studies International. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2016.
  44. ^ abcdefghHerbst, Jeffrey (Spring 1990). "War and the State in Africa". International Security. 14 (4): 117–39. doi:10.2307/2538753. JSTOR 2538753. 
  45. ^ abcTilly, Charles. War Making and State Making as Organized Crime. pp. 169–191. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511628283.008. 
  46. ^Kongar, Ebru Jennifer C. Olmsted & Elora Shehabuddin (2014) Gender and Economics in Muslim Communities: A Critical Feminist and Postcolonial Analysis, Feminist Economics, 20:4, 1- 32, DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2014.982141
  47. ^Marrar, Shuaa. "Report on Labour and Economy in the Palestinian Territory A Gender Perspective." Riyada For the World Bank (2009): n. pag. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
  48. ^Great Depression and World War II. The Library of Congress.
  49. ^Mayer, E. (2000) "World War II"Archived 2009-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. course lecture notes on (Victorville, California: Victor Valley College)
  50. ^Coleman, P. (1999) "Cost of the War,"World War II Resource Guide (Gardena, California: The American War Library)
  51. ^The New York Times, 9 February 1946, Volume 95, Number 32158.

An American Perspective on the War of 1812

by Donald Hickey
The War of 1812 is probably our most obscure conflict.  Although a great deal has been written about the war, the average American is only vaguely aware of why we fought or who the enemy was.  Even those who know something about the contest are likely to remember only a few dramatic moments, such as the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the burning of the nation’s capital, or the Battle of New Orleans.


A British Perspective

by Andrew Lambert  
The War of 1812 has been referred to as a victorious “Second War for Independence,” and used to define Canadian identity, but the British only remember 1812 as the year Napoleon marched to Moscow. This is not surprising. In British eyes, the conflict with America was an annoying sideshow. The Americans had stabbed them in the back while they, the British, were busy fighting a total war against the French Empire, directed by their most inveterate enemy. For a nation fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, James Madison was an annoying irrelevance. Consequently the American war would be fought with whatever money, manpower and naval force that could be spared, no more than seven percent of the total British military effort. 


A Canadian Perspective on the War of 1812

by Victor Suthren
When the American declaration of war fell upon the disparate colonies of British North America, it produced reactions as different as the character of each colony.  But the people of the Canadian colonies were united in the belief that this was an unwanted war, governed more by the distant preoccupations of London or Washington than the needs and wishes of the King’s subjects in North America.


A Native Nations Perspective on the War of 1812

by Donald Fixico
The War of 1812 was an important conflict with broad and lasting consequences, particularly for the native inhabitants of North America.  During the pivotal years before the war, the United States wanted to expand its territories, a desire that fueled the invasion of native homelands throughout the interior of the continent.  [Miller, p.47] Tribal nations of the lower Great Lakes, including the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Ojibwa, and others saw their lands at risk.  The same was true for the Muscogee Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw in the south.


Black Sailors and Soldiers in the War of 1812

In 1813 Charles Ball, an escaped slave and self-declared “free man of color,” had a choice.  He could row out to the British fleet, moored in the Chesapeake Bay, and offer his services to the King --  or he could volunteer for the fledgling American navy and defend his country.  Ball, whose dramatic bid for freedom is chronicled in The Life of Charles Ball, A Black Man, chose the latter  and he was not alone. 


Military Medicine in the War of 1812

There is hardly on the face of the earth a less enviable situation than that of an Army Surgeon after a battle – worn out and fatigued in body and mind, surrounded by suffering, pain, and misery, much of which he knows it is not in his power to heal…. I never underwent such fatigue as I did the first week at Butler's Barracks.  The weather was intensely hot, the flies in myriads, and lighting on the wounds, deposited their eggs, so that maggots were bred in a few hours.

Tiger Dunlop, British surgeon to the 89th (The Pricess Victoria’s) Regiment of Foot, War of 1812.


Naval Battleships in the War of 1812

When the United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812, the U.S. Navy was an eighteen-year-old institution with barely a dozen ships to its name. The British Royal Navy, by contrast, had been operating for centuries, and could boast over five hundred active warships.  Eighty-five of these ships were sailing American waters at the time war broke out.


Prisoners of War in 1812

Military captives in the War of 1812 posed a particular problem for both sides.  Neither the British nor the Americans could maintain large prisons – they lacked the military facilities and the manpower to hold soldiers for long periods of time.  And, in a war that stretched along half of North America, prisoners posed a logistical nightmare – prisoners taken in battle were often hundreds of miles away from the nearest military garrison.

The British often paroled captured militiamen and army officers, releasing them after they’d made a pledge to stay out of the war for the duration.


Personal Journals from the War of 1812

For some of the participants in the War of 1812 the conflict was the defining moment of their lives, and they were well aware of it.  A number of young soldiers penned brief diaries and journals that show how the war began for them as an adventure, but ended in many cases with injury, imprisonment and grief. For women, too, the war was a trial, a test of their fortitude and resourcefulness, but it was also a window onto a wider world.  Their journals in turn have become our window onto a war that took place two centuries ago.


The Treaty of Ghent

James Madison had an opportunity to end the War of 1812 almost as soon as it began. The British had repealed the Orders in Council – rules that curbed American trade with Europe – and thus one of Madison’s major reasons for war was now moot.  If the British had foregone the right to impress American sailors, Madison could well have gone back to Congress with the suggestion that hostilities cease immediately.  However, the British considered impressment their right by custom, and believed it essential to their naval might. And so James Madison took his country to war.


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