The History of the Culture of War
War and the culture of war at the dawn of history 5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve?

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-guns trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war


The earliest known writings, coming from empires that arose more or less independently in the different continents (China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Central America), paint a picture of a fully-developed culture of war with the following characteristics:

1. armies and armaments
2. authoritarian rule associated with military leadership
3. control of information through secrecy and propaganda
4. identification of an "enemy"
5. education of young men from the nobility to be warriors
6. religious institutions that support the government and military
7. artistic and literary glorification of military conquest
8. male domination
9. wealth based on plunder and slavery
10. economy based on exploitation (slaves, serfs, etc.)
11. means to deter slave revolts and political dissidents including internal use of military power, prisons and executions.

I am using Volumes III and IV of the UNESCO History of Humanity (UNESCO 1994) as a basic source at the dawn of history, and looking at the eight major civilizations that invented writing, as follows:

Middle East cuneiform writing (Sumerian 3000 BC and Akkadian 2500 BC)
Egypt hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts : 3000 BC
Chinese idographic script : 2000 BC
Crete Linear A script : 1700 BC
Indic script : 400 BC (Indus script, which is much earlier in association with the Harappan Civilization, is not yet deciphered and no long texts have been found. The Rigveda texts are based on oral traditions going back as far as 1400 BC.)
Early Hebrew script : 1000 BC
Greek script : 900 BC
Central America ideographic writing : 700 BC

By depending on written records, we gain our first picture of the culture of war from the time period between 700 and 3000 BC, i.e. between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. In many cases the quotations speak of warfare itself rather than its culture, but in reading them, we will often find mention of various aspects of the culture of war such as authoritarian governance, images of the enemy, economic growth based on exploitation and oppression, etc.

To take part in a discussion about this page, click below on the Culture of Peace Dialogues:

discussion board

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?