Military history of Europe

Last updated

The military history of Europe refers to the history of warfare on the European continent. From the beginning of the modern era to the second half of the 20th century, European militaries possessed a significant technological advantage, allowing its states to pursue policies of expansionism and colonization until the Cold War period. European militaries in between the fifteenth century and the modern period were able to conquer or subjugate almost every other nation in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, the European security environment has been characterized by structural dominance of the United States through its NATO commitments to the defense of Europe, as European states have sought to reap the 'peace dividend' occasioned by the end of the Cold War and reduce defense expenditures. European militaries now mostly undertake power projection missions outside the European continent. Recent military conflicts involving European nations include the 2001 War in Afghanistan, the 2003 War in Iraq, the 2011 NATO Campaign in Libya, and various other engagements in the Balkan and on the African continent. After 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea and ongoing crisis in Ukraine prompted renewed scholarly interest into European military affairs.

Contents

Characteristics of regions

Due to the numerous countries that grew out of Medieval feudalism and de-centralization from the Western Roman Empire's fall, different nations have had a power struggle. The island of the United Kingdom was more protected against land invasion from mainland Europe and as such has felt less damage from mainland Europe's struggles. In contrast, the area of Germany and its surrounding territories were at the center of many revolving conflicts. The area of Russia has been known as the 'sleeping giant' or 'great bear' due to it comparatively remaining passive militarily toward the rest of Europe prior to the 19th century and out of Western and Central Europe's affairs. The Roman Empire growing out of mainland Italy has been called 'the first super power'. France having the natural barriers of the Rhine to the east, the Pyrenees to the south, and the English channel to the north has tried to maintain these throughout its history with rivalry with Britain for centuries and then with Germany. Britain and France were the most successful in establishing a broad colonial empire spanning from Africa to Asia, with a majority of that success attributed to them being almost sealocked.

Ancient times

The era was dominated by the Mediterranean nations, most notably Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Ancient Greece warred with its rival the Persian Empire which was the greatest danger to Europe in the Greco-Persian Wars. Ancient Rome continued the conflict with Persia in the Roman-Persian Wars. The North African city of Carthage fought three wars against Rome and lost allowing Rome to finally be master of the Mediterranean. Julius Caesar made the first Roman incursions into Britannia. Numerous civil wars plagued Ancient Rome for many centuries, but it was the eventual Barbarian incursion from Central and Eastern Europe which contributed the most to Rome's decline. Great migrations from Asia, caused a ripple effect of Eastern Europeans migrating west from barbarians, most well known of these the Huns. The Western Roman Empire fell to these barbarians helped with the fact of economic inflation and internal strife. The Eastern Roman Empire still remained untouched until the late Middle Ages.

Medieval Period

The early parts of the medieval period known as the Dark Ages saw the first conflicts with the Eastern Roman Empire which continued to fight the Persians in the Roman-Persian Wars and against the Muslim conquests shortly after. In the Medieval period, feudalism was firmly implanted, and there existed many landlords in Europe with armored cavalry being the dominant on the battlefield. Landlords often owned castles to protect their territory. The Ottoman Empire was formed with considerable projection into the Balkan region after finally defeating the Eastern Roman Capital of Constantinople. The Holy Roman Empire was formed by Charlemagne and campaigned against Denmark and the Muslims in Spain. The Crusades were a series of military campaigns waged in the name of Christianity, the aim was to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims including crusades in Northern Europe and against Russia. The Mongolian Empire stretched into Eastern Europe with many eastern European armies falling under the horde. The Russian region known as Kievan Rus' was dominated by the Mongols with centuries of warfare. Military action died down in the early to mid 14th century considering the black death was wreaking havoc through much of Europe. The medieval ages ended with the Western European conflict of the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) that was primarily between England and France ending in French victory.

The Renaissance

Gunpowder small-arms ended cavalry superiority. The Italian Wars dominated the early part of this period. It originally started as a dynastic dispute but eventually involved all the European powers as a struggle for power and territory. The 30 Years' War from 1618 to 1648 dominated Central Europe from the participation of all the major European powers resulting in German areas' virtual economic disintegration.

Gunpowder age

The Great Northern War (1700 to 1721) was fought between Russia, Denmark-Norway, Saxony-Poland and between Sweden and the Ottoman Empire ending in Russian victory with the end of the Swedish empire and the use of Sweden as a power satellite in the region. The Seven Years' War (1754 and 1756–1763] that enveloped both European and colonial theaters involved all the major European powers. France was at the center of attention with the Napoleonic Wars starting from the French Revolution, the combined conflicts lasting from 1792 and ending in 1815 with the defeat of Napoleon. The German states, headed by Prussia, taking a century of recovery from the devastation of the 30 Years' War, started a series of victorious wars first starting with the Danish-Prussian War (1864), Austro-Prussian War (1866), and ending in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) that resulted in the reunification of Germany forming the German Empire.

World War I

World War I was a global war fought chiefly in Europe from 1914 to 1918.

Interwar era

After World War I, the major European experienced two decades of relative peace. The Russian Civil War lasted from 1917 to 1922, saw the intervention of various European powers, ending in victory for the Bolsheviks and the formation of the USSR. Simultaneously, the emerging Soviet government conducted the Polish-Soviet War that lasted from 1919 to 1921 and an ongoing conflict with Finland. The Irish War of Independence was fought from 1919-1921, a guerrilla war against the United Kingdom. It was followed by the Irish Civil War, which erupted over a disagreement between nationalist factions about the Anglo-Irish Treaty, establishing Ireland as a dominion of the British Empire. The interwar era was characterized by a continuing disarmament and internationalist movement. Both sides of the imminent Second World War increased military production during the 1930s, but were limited by the Washington Naval Treaty. Unlike the punitive restrictions on land forces nominally imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, Nazi Germany notably complied with the naval restrictions. This resulted in crucial limitations in Germany's Kriegsmarine against the Royal Navy. The interwar years in Europe were brought to a close by the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. This conflict was a prelude to the World War II, both in new technologies used (strategic and tactical aerial bombing, mechanized warfare, direct attacks on civilian populations, guerilla operations) and belligerents (Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany supporting the Nationalist side, Communist Russia and various European leftist groups supporting the Loyalist side).

World War IIhitler & his henchmen


World War II was a global military conflict which involved a majority of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involved the mobilisation of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their complete economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

The Cold War

The Cold War was the state of conflict, tension and competition that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. Throughout this period, rivalry between the two superpowers was expressed through military coalitions, propaganda, espionage, weapons development, industrial advances, and competitive technological development, which included the space race. Both superpowers engaged in costly defence spending, a massive conventional and nuclear arms race, and numerous proxy wars.

Present

After the Cold War ended, wars have only taken place in Europe during the breakup of Yugoslavia. These wars involved separatist states and the combat of terrorism in southern Yugoslavia. In 1991, separatist Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia split from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1992, they were followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2006, Montenegro and Serbia split resulting in the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). The current conflict in the area of northern Macedonia and Serbian province Kosovo, where Albanian paramilitaries started guerilla war against the government forces. Kosovar Albanians want complete independence from Serbia. Serbia is only offering autonomy of its sovereign territory.

In comparison to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was peaceful.

European armies still participate in wars outside the European continent, including conflicts involving NATO members. European soldiers currently are based in Africa, the Americas (Haiti) and Asia (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon).

European military spending is roughly half that of the United States and about a quarter of the global total.

See also

Related Research Articles

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of Southeast Europe

The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in Southeast Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian–Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the northwest, the Ionian Sea in the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south, the Turkish Straits in the east, and the Black Sea in the northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range, Bulgaria.

Central Powers Military coalition in World War I

The Central Powers, also Central Empires, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria - hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance —was one of the two main coalitions that fought World War I (1914–18).

Europe Continent

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia and is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and Asia to the east. Europe is commonly considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Greater Caucasus, the Black Sea, and the waterways of the Turkish Straits. Although much of this border is over land, Europe is generally accorded the status of a full continent because of its great physical size and the weight of history and tradition.

History of Europe History of Europe from the beginnings of recorded history

The history of Europe covers the people inhabiting the continent of Europe from prehistory to the present. During the Neolithic era and the time of the Indo-European migrations Europe saw human inflows from east and southeast and subsequent important cultural and material exchange. The period known as classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of ancient Greece. Later, the Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin. The fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 traditionally marks the start of the Middle Ages. Beginning in the 14th century a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation set up Protestant churches primarily in Germany, Scandinavia and England. After 1800, the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to Britain and Western Europe. The main powers set up colonies in most of the Americas and Africa, and parts of Asia. In the 20th century, World War I and World War II resulted in massive numbers of deaths. The Cold War dominated European geo-politics from 1947 to 1989. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the European countries grew together.

History of the Mediterranean region Historical development of the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea was the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples encompassing three continents: Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. The history of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Persian, Thracian, Etruscan, Iberian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Arab, Berber, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic cultures.

Eastern Europe Eastern part of the European continent

Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct". One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural entity: the region lying in Europe with the main characteristics consisting of Greek, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, Russian, and some Ottoman cultural influences. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. Most historians and social scientists view such definitions as outdated or relegated, but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes.

The history of Bulgaria can be traced from the first settlements on the lands of modern Bulgaria to its formation as a nation-state, and includes the history of the Bulgarian people and their origin. The earliest evidence of hominid occupation discovered in what is today Bulgaria date from at least 1.4 million years ago. Around 5000 BC, a sophisticated civilization already existed which produced some of the first pottery and jewellery in the world. After 3000 BC, the Thracians appeared on the Balkan peninsula. In the late 6th century BC, most of what is nowadays Bulgaria came under the Persian Empire. In the 470s BC, the Thracians formed the powerful Odrysian Kingdom which lasted until 46 BC, when it was finally conquered by the Roman Empire. During the centuries, some Thracian tribes fell under Ancient Macedonian and Hellenistic, and also Celtic domination. This mixture of ancient peoples was assimilated by the Slavs, who permanently settled on the peninsula after 500 AD.

Sremski Karlovci Town and municipality in Vojvodina, Serbia

Sremski Karlovci is a town and municipality located in the South Bačka District of the autonomous province of Vojvodina, Serbia. It is situated on the banks of the Danube, 8 kilometres from Novi Sad. According to the 2011 census results, it has a population of 8,750 inhabitants. The town has traditionally been known as the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Monarchy. It was the political and cultural capital of Serbian Vojvodina after the May Assembly and during the Revolution in 1848.

Southern Europe Region of the European continent

Southern Europe is the southern region of the European continent. Most definitions of Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe, include Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Spain, Southern France, East Thrace or European Turkey and Cyprus. Also often included despite not having a coast in the Mediterranean are Portugal, Serbia, North Macedonia, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City.

History of the Balkans aspect of history

The Balkans and parts of this area are alternatively situated in Southeast, Southern, Eastern Europe and Central Europe. The distinct identity and fragmentation of the Balkans owes much to its common and often turbulent history regarding centuries of Ottoman conquest and to its very mountainous geography.

A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers. Its existence can sometimes be thought to prevent conflict between them. A buffer state is sometimes a mutually agreed upon area lying between two greater powers, which is demilitarized in the sense of not hosting the military of either power. The invasion of a buffer state by one of the powers surrounding it will often result in war between the powers.

In diplomatic history, the "Eastern Question" refers to the strategic competition and political considerations of the European Great Powers in light of the political and economic instability in the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. Characterized as the "sick man of Europe", the relative weakening of the empire's military strength in the second half of the eighteenth century threatened to undermine the fragile balance of power system largely shaped by the Concert of Europe. The Eastern Question encompassed myriad interrelated elements: Ottoman military defeats, Ottoman institutional insolvency, the ongoing Ottoman political and economic modernization programme, the rise of ethno-religious nationalism in its provinces, and Great Power rivalries.

Italy in the Middle Ages History of Italy during the Middle Ages

The history of the Italian peninsula during the medieval period can be roughly defined as the time between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance.

The Roman–Persian Wars, also known as the Roman–Iranian Wars, were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world and two successive Iranian empires: the Parthian and the Sasanian. Battles between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic began in 54 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued through the Roman and Sasanian empires. Various vassal kingdoms and allied nomadic nations in the form of buffer states and proxies also played a role. The wars were ended by the Arab Muslim Conquests, which led to the fall of the Sasanian Empire and huge territorial losses for the Byzantine Empire, shortly after the end of the last war between them.

The military history of Africa is one of the oldest military histories in the world. Africa is a continent of many regions with diverse populations speaking hundreds of different languages and practicing an array of cultures and religions. These differences have also been the source of much conflict since a millennia.

The European balance of power referred to international relations between European countries during the First World War, which evolved into the present states of Europe. The Nineteenth Century political concept emerged at the Peace of Paris in 1815. It is often known by the term European State System. Its basic tenet is that no single European power should be allowed to achieve hegemony over a substantial part of the continent and that this is best curtailed by having a small number of ever-changing alliances contend for power.

Western world Countries that identify themselves with an originally European shared culture

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and states, depending on the context, most often consisting of the majority of Europe, Australasia, and most of the Americas. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world. It might mean the Northern half of the North–South divide.

Dacian warfare warfare involving the Dacian people

The history of Dacian warfare spans from c. 10th century BC up to the 2nd century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Dacia, populated by a collection of Thracian, Ionian, and Dorian tribes. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Dacian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Dacians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Dacians too.

Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, cultures and economies thereof, as well as the resulting changes to local and international relationships.

Barbarian kingdoms Kingdoms dominated by northern European tribes established all over the Mediterranean after Barbarian Invasions

The barbarian kingdoms were kingdoms dominated by northern European tribes established all over the Mediterranean after Barbarian Invasions from late antiquity to the early middle ages. The term "barbarian" has been commonly used by historians even though the term was not used by the peoples in question and carries considerable value judgement. Other terms used include "Northern European kingdoms", "Romano-northern European kingdoms", and "post-Roman kingdoms".