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Kabinettskriege (German: [kabiˈnɛtsˌkʁiːɡə], "Cabinet Wars"; singular Kabinettskrieg) is the German expression referring to the type of wars which affected Europe during the period of absolute monarchies, from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia to the 1789 French Revolution. It is also known as "war between princes." Such wars involved small armies, noble officer corps, limited war goals, and frequently changing coalitions among the belligerents.
The terms of Kabinettskriege plays on Kabinettsregierung (Cabinet government), Kabinettsjustiz (Cabinet law), etc. In contrast with preceding wars of religion and 20th century total wars or revolutionary people's wars, "cabinet wars" had limited goals. Clausewitz theorized this in On War by stating that "war was the continuation of politics with other means," thus placing the military under civilian control.
The Thirty Years' War, based on religious conflict, had been marked by wild plunders and marauding armies. Order was reestablished by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which formulated the rules of international relations for the next centuries, in particular respective to the laws of war (jus ad bello and jus in bellum). During the Age of Enlightenment and under the direction of the "enlightened despots," wars became more regulated, although the civilian population was still a current victim of mercenaries. Such scenes as the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre became exceptional. Thus, Berlin was not plundered during the Seven Years' War of 1756-1762, despite having fallen into enemy hands not once but twice.
Cabinet wars, which mostly took place between 1650 and 1792, included the:
- Ottoman wars
- War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697)
- Great Northern War (1700-1721)
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
- War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735)
- War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748)
- Seven Years' War (1756-1763)
- War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-1779)
The invention of the levée en masse (mass conscription) during the French Revolution put an end to cabinet wars. Further wars were not simply due to conflict between princes, but involved nationalism and conflicts over the boundaries of nation-states. Thus, the Peninsular War was called by Spanish the "independence war"; this conflict also led to the first guerrilla warfare, against the regular Napoleonic army. A bit later Napoleon's invasion of Russia, called Patriotic War in Russian historiography, also sparked huge guerrilla warfare. The Crimean War (1854-1856) could be classified, however, among the "cabinet wars," as it was conducted with limited goals and released only moderate passions from the people of the involved belligerent states.