Ancient history

Civil war

Civil War is the conflict between the members of a political community, be it an empire, tribe, caliphate or republic.

It is also defined as the war of a state against a group of opponents (or vice versa) within the same territory.

Unlike war between nations, civil war is a struggle between factions within the same group and not against an outside threat.

Civil War Meaning

Civil wars have existed at all times in human history. Just remember that one of the causes of the end of the Roman Empire was the struggles between the different parts of the empire.

Civil war usually takes place when the central power is weakened, leaving room for armed groups to take its place.

Thus, fratricidal struggles occur, where the enemy belongs to the same community. However, groups involved in a civil war may or may not receive outside help.

Reason for a Civil War

The reasons for a community to enter into military conflict are varied. From religious reasons, as was the case of wars in the 16th century, to territorial and economic pretexts.

In the 20th century, there are several civil conflicts against the implementation of certain political regimes. Countries like Spain, Russia, Vietnam and Korea enter civil war over political choices.

Civil War Examples

History is full of examples of civil wars. We have chosen two examples that illustrate well a conflict within the same country.

1. American Civil War or Civil War

The American Civil War took place in the United States from 1861-1865. In it, two geographic regions, the north and the south, collided. These regions symbolized different ways of life and political ideas.

So when the southern states decided to continue with slavery, as opposed to the north, the rupture is done.

In this way, southerners opt for secession, that is, for the separation of what were once the Thirteen Colonies. They create the Confederate States of America, but no nation recognizes the new country.

The result was a bloody conflict between two groups that shared a common language and a similar history of colonization. Both had professional armies, but the civilian population was recruited and hit.

See also:Civil War

2. Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was one of the most important armed conflagrations of the 20th century. It was considered a rehearsal of the Second World War, as fascists, liberals and communists faced each other on the battlefield.

The struggle divided Spain between those who defended the republican government installed in 1931 and those who wanted to overthrow it, the nationalists.

The struggle lasted three years and the Nationalists, led by Franco and supported by Germany and Italy, emerged victorious. Thousands of Spaniards died and dozens of republicans had to go into exile.

See also:Spanish Civil War

Civil War and Genocide

Another serious manifestation of civil wars is the extermination of a particular population. From the Second World War, after the Holocaust, such a situation was called genocide .

Genocide is presented by those who commit it as a defense. The State that attacks a certain religious or ethnic group, alleges that its integrity is being threatened and thus commits true atrocities.

In the 20th century, several civil wars used genocide as a battle tactic against the population. One of the examples is the Rwanda War (1994), when the population Tutis was massacred by the Hutus .

Likewise, during the Yugoslav Civil War, Croats and Serbs, Bosnians and Muslims, killed each other and used rape to promote ethnic cleansing. In this way, several Bosnian women were raped by Serb soldiers, so that they could become pregnant and have Serb children.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein did not hesitate to attack the Kurds, claiming that they had allied themselves with an external enemy and that it threatened Iraq.

The Geneva Convention and the Civil War

Contrary to what it may seem, in a war there are a series of rules that are agreed upon by the adversaries.

In order to enforce these laws, the Swiss Henri Dunant (1828-1910) summoned the 19th century powers to meet in the city of Geneva, Switzerland, for the purpose of discussing the limits of war.

His priority was to protect the civilian population and prisoners. Thus, the Geneva Convention emerged, from which several international treaties were drawn up between 1864 and 1949.

The Geneva Convention sets out rules such as:

  • The civilian population and their livelihoods cannot be attacked;
  • the Red Cross and Red Crescent are prohibited from being targets of aggression;
  • doctors and nurses cannot be prevented from carrying out their work;
  • prisoners of war must be treated with dignity, provided with food and water;
  • chemical weapons and land mines are prohibited.

These treaties are constantly revised to be in tune with new technologies and ways of combat.


  • The War in Syria, a conflict that continues in 2018, is considered an example of an ongoing civil war.
  • Despite being silenced in our History, Brazil had several examples of civil war, such as conflicts in the Regency Period and even in the 20th century with the 1932 Revolution.

Read more :

  • Vietnam War
  • Korean War
  • Russian Revolution (1917)
  • War of the Two Roses
  • Regency Period
  • History's Greatest Dictators
  • Terrorism

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