Long War (20th century)

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For other conflicts called the Long War, see Long War (disambiguation).

The Long War is a name proposed by Philip Bobbitt in The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History to describe the series of major conflicts fought from the start of the First World War in 1914 to the decline of the Soviet Union in 1990. As proposed by Bobbitt, the Long War includes the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as the Bolshevik Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, the Spanish Civil War and the Cold War. These wars were all fought over a single set of constitutional issues, to determine which form of constitution – liberal democracy, fascism or socialism – would replace the colonial ideology of the imperial states of Europe that had emerged after the epochal Napoleonic Wars that had dominated the world between the Congress of Vienna and August 1914. Just as earlier epochal wars were resolved by major international settlements at Westphalia, Utrecht and Vienna, so the Long War was resolved by the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe.[1]

Bobbitt's Long War follows a view of history understood as a series of epochal wars that have shaped both state constitutions and international relations. Bobbitt traces this perspective of military history via Thomas Hobbes and Niccolò Machiavelli to Thucydides. The Greek historian Thucydides, for example, identified the wars of the fifth century BC in the Hellenic world as a constitutional struggle between the hegemons Athens and Sparta, which he called the Peloponnesian War.

Alternate views on understanding conflicts during the same time period include the Second Thirty Years War, which extends from 1914 to 1945 and includes both the First World War and the Second World War and so forms a subdivision within Bobbitt's Long War, and the European Civil War, which extends the beginning of the period to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 but still concludes with the Second World War in 1945.


  1. ^ Bobbitt, Philip (2002). The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History. Foreword by Michael Howard. 2003 Grand Prize Winner, Robert W. Hamilton Awards. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. xxviii. ISBN 0-375-41292-1.