Evolution of Warfare

Subject: Political
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2872
Topics: Political Science, Innovation, International Relations

Evolution of warfare is a controversial subject, which dates back to the dawn of civilization. In early wars where armies relied on simple weapons such as spears, sticks, stones, and arrows. However, the situation has changed over the recent past, an aspect that is attributed to advancement in technology. Besides, the ancient warfare was based on organization other than technology as for the case of the current situation (Zefferman & Mathew, 2015). Furthermore, mass was considered as a critical element for battles. To manage global violence, understanding warfare evolution remains a necessity. War is ever changing as involved stakeholders are adopting new strategies each day. This can be evidenced by the increased transformation, which can be seen in the 21st century. 

However, the modern warfare depends on innovation, concepts, and methods as their primary approach to managing battles, an aspect that was borrowed from the World War II. With increased innovation, it is worth appreciating that ancient and modern warfare are distinct in different ways. This can be evidenced by the nature of their organization, type of weapons used, and tactics among other attributes. This paper seeks to analyze the evolution of warfare through time. To efficiently achieve the study objective, the paper will appreciate the forces behind the new structure of the armies, development of more sophisticated weapons and the different eras of wars. 

Evolution of Warfare 

According to Glowacki &Wrangham (2015), the reasons for people to engage in wars are poorly understood. However, the scholars acknowledge the existence of intergroup conflicts in the ancient societies. Besides, participating in warfare is assumed to have some benefits to individuals despite the high risks associated with the same. For instance, engaging in warfare was initially linked to increased access to bridewealth, an aspect that allowed an individual to have many wives and children. 

Although the issue of intergroup conflict has existed for decades now, the motivation behind people’s participation remains unclear. Besides, Glowacki &Wrangham (2015), also shares the perception that the origin of human violence also remains controversial. However, different scholars have indicated their concerns that the issue of intergroup conflict is not new as it can be traced back to the emergence of sedentary foraging. However, other scholars have indicated their concerns that violence is not new and was common among the small-scale societies. 

According to Allen et al. (2016), the evolution of warfare is attributed to two main concerns. (1) People will consider going to war when the benefits of engaging in such affairs outweigh the cost and (2) in case of coercion from the leader, an experience that occurs in complex societies. Catino (2015) in his work, however, acknowledges that war has been in existence throughout man’s life. The Israelites as seen in the article fought for their rights, to retain their land. Ancient warfare is thus associated with basic human rights such as ownership of land, an aspect that has significantly changed in the modern day where nations fight to gain power over the others. Communities were thus used to fight and had to be ready to fight for their rights at any time they are called upon. Notably, most of their fight was organized in a battlefield and had to be over within a single day. 

Bowles (2009) in his work sought to understand the impact of warfare among the ancestral hunter-gatherers on human social behavior. Apparently, the behavior of the current warfare is attributed to the technological advancement as recorded by archaeologists. The transition from using simple tools to the modern advanced weapons is traced back to 45 thousand years ago in different parts of the world which include Europe, Africa and Western part of Asia (Bowles, 2009). Nonetheless, culture played a significant role in the transition, an aspect that shows the symbolic behavior of the people. 

To show the ancient organization of warfare, this study will appreciate the livelihood of the Nyangatom, which is a region along the Ethiopian and South Sudan border. The area is characterized by warfare, free from commercial and state agendas, an aspect that makes it unique for the study. 

The principal inhabitants of the area include members of Karamojong cluster, Turkana, and Toposa. Because of the nature of the community, the people are known for moving from one region to another, in search for pasture for their livestock except for farmers who live in semi-permanent houses. The community is also characterized by small-scale society organization with few families to several hundred. However, because of local conflicts between the community members fighting for the scarce resources, most of the community members are forced to relocate to other areas leaving most of the land to remain uninhabited. 

The Nyangatom experience a series of conflicts with different ethnic communities which include Turkana, Suri, and Dassanetch among other prominent groups in the region. Apparently, because of the technology advancement, communities are using automatic weapons to protect themselves, which emerged in the 1980s (Glowacki &Wrangham, 2015). Furthermore, it is worth acknowledging that the community employs two significant strategies in attacking their enemies and include stealth raids and battle raids. 

Stealth raids refer to attack which is composed of about 4-25 men who try to capture livestock by sneaking it into an enemy land while steal livestock from the same area simultaneously. However, such attacks may involve losing to live in case their encounter resistance. Furthermore, in such raids, most of the participants are usually young and middle age men with informal leadership and are characterized by low casualty rates. 

Battle raids, on the other hand, are characterized by engagement of hundreds of participants who forcibly capture livestock and use mass to win battles. Because of the force, such raids are described by a large number of causalities. Furthermore, the raids are led by prominent leaders who take active responsibility in the conflict. This includes planned coordination, participation and provision of tactical advice to the concerned stakeholders. However, participation in the raids is not compulsory, and there is nothing like a chain of command.

Therefore, the evolution of the modern army can thus be traced back to the ancient warfare. During the ancient times, most of the armies were organized either as infantry, cavalry, chariot or naval. With infantry, the army relied on mass and the more soldiers that a country had, the more likely that they could win in a war. Calvary, on the other hand, emerged with the next move to use horses in wars. However, with more development, chariots were used to transport people and their property as well as soldiers to the battle field, thus becoming a vital weapon for wars. Naval power was however developed later as nations started to control seas, an approach that is used to date, in the modern warfare. 

As evidenced, the evolution of warfare has been a process and can be traced back to the ancient times. Nonetheless, the essential attribute that has contributed to the recent warfare is technology, which led to using of biological, chemical, electronic, nuclear and psychological weapons among others. 

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Technological advancement is the primary attribute that contributed to increased evolution of warfare. With more innovation, warfare was able to adopt new strategies, tactics and weapons to manage evolving issues. Nonetheless, in both eras, the enemy is forced to submit through force, an aspect that attracts negation. The strategy has been replicated in the modern warfare as countries fight to prevent each other from having power over the entire world. As seen in the Israelites warfare, tactics used depended largely on the size and skills of the fighting armies. Other attributes that played a role in the ancient war include weather, positional advantages of the armies as well as unit types. Nonetheless, the main kind of weapons used during the era consists of axes, swords, bows, spears, and arrows unlike in the current era, where evolution has led to the development of more sophisticated weapons. 

However, the ancient warfare was on the tribal basis as the battles set were mainly fighting for economic resources. Although some fights were done in a single day, others lasted for years. It is imperative to acknowledge that there is a significant evolution of warfare, which can be evidenced by understanding the similarities and differences between the modern day war and the ancient war. 

The ancient war as appreciated in this study relied on the organization which includes the use of phalanx. However, the modern warfare, on the other hand, depends more on technology and information. However, the motivation behind civilization in the two eras is distinct. During the ancient period, the rationale of civilization was mainly for personal gain. However, in the modern era, the primary goal of civilization is usually to prevent an individual from having control over global resources. Besides, there have been transitions from limited to total warfare by embracing technologies which are required to realize specific goals for a country. Furthermore, another distinctive feature that denotes the evolution includes the makeup of armies, transition, and tactics used among other vital attributes. 

In his work, Catino (2015) gives a detailed explanation of the ancient warfare in Israel. The scholar appreciates the importance of land in the military tradition among the Israelites. First, the land is perceived as religious as it is God-given; hence has a strategic and tactical value to the military, an aspect that shows its significant influence on military success. For instance, Palestine is perceived as the only land that connects Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Israel had a long coastline, an aspect that made it easy for them to invade their enemies through the sea. Furthermore, land played an essential role in the transfer of goods as inaccessible land made it difficult for the people to defend themselves against their enemies.   

From this study, it is evident that warfare has changed over the years by country and ruler. This can be evidenced by the shifts in battle strategies and methods employed in warfare. For instance, in the ancient war, as seen for the case of the Israelites, the army was equipped with simple tools such as spears and leather shield. However, later battles reveal that the warfare had changed as armies started using horses and chariots, bows, bronze swords and body armor, an aspect that denotes the evolution. 

Advancement in weaponry can be traced back to the old kingdoms of the Egyptians. The advancement remains to be the main reason behind the development of professional fighting force which has is used in different countries across the globe, an approach that was first embraced in the Egyptian empire. The Persian Empire, for instance, preferred using armored cavalry where heavy infantry and archers were used. It is evident therefore that armies have embraced different battle strategies over the years. For instance, the use of long spear otherwise referred to as sarissa was introduced by Philip II. Alexander the great on the other hand later added the use of light and heavy Calvary and chariots. 

Ancient cultures thus embraced a similar pattern of evolution in the development of rudimentary weapons. Besides, most of the tools used were initially used for the hunting and were later improved as different tribes engaged with each other. With increased advancement, tribes developed to culture as conflicts, on the other hand, gained increased recognition, thus demanding for more sophisticated weapons. Besides, irrespective of culture and time, governments had over the years showed increased interest and exerted more effort in warfare that others aspects of life. This can be evidenced by increased public spending to the military and other related sectors. 

War is inevitable in any society, and the concept is ever changing, an issue that has been attributed to the need to adapt to new circumstances. Besides, the evolution has been cited to camouflaging itself in international relations and national security, an issue that has been debated over the years by different scholars.  Some of the critical illustrations that can be used to show the transformation include the following; 

While other stakeholders are seeking to replace their soldiers with more innovative techniques such as drones, others are using human bombs, as for the case of the terrorists. Nonetheless, use of automated weapons has gained increased recognition because of its effectiveness, as armies can conduct attacks beyond borders. This shows the two ends of contrasting evolution in warfare. 

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Furthermore, cultural and commercial venues are converted to battlefields unlike in the past where there were designated places for war. Nonetheless, it is imperative to acknowledge that some of the cities with deadliest conflicts such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo still use traditional techniques of warfare. 

From the era of ancient Greeks, the transformation can be traced in a systematic manner. During the ancient time, armies used unity of action as their primary tactic and wars used to occur at pre-determined places and time. The battlefields were usually open place, and wars had a begging and end, unlike in the present era. French revolution introduced the aspect of expansion and conquest, which closely followed by mobilization of a country’s resources to investing in the military. With time, countries have experienced the increased transformation of warfare, an aspect that needs to be understood to address the humanitarian concerns by the concerned stakeholders effectively. 

Apparently, it is important to appreciate that the world is undergoing a period of reshaping. The dominance by the western states is slowly diminishing as new nations are slowly gaining recognition, in managing international affairs, an aspect that has been brought about by the evolution of warfare. Most of the systems adopted by the current military are adopted from the Second World War, an issue that has attracted increased debate over the years. This includes emergence of new military and new economic relationships. Besides, the engagement of media in international affairs has been perceived to enhance cooperation among states as well as cause conflicts, an issue that is debatable. 

Nonetheless, lack of stable livelihoods and the issue of unresolved conflicts among states has forced people to flee their homes to other countries. Such radical behavior has increased the isolation of some countries from the rest of the world, an aspect that triggers a fight between countries. Furthermore, the world seems to enter an era of selfishness where nations want to hold power in their hands while compromising the safety of their enemies. Other warfare strategies used in the current era include the use of the media intensify conflict between states. 

To adequately understand the evolution of warfare, studies have to acknowledge the transformation that has occurred over the past one and half centuries. This includes appreciation of mankind’s oldest activity to the current deadly transformations which have been brought by increased technological breakthroughs and unfair political ideologists. Nonetheless, the evolution of warfare, making the world unsafe as debate by some scholars has led to the invention of different humanitarian programs, seeking to restore peace in different parts of the world. The process if conducted properly is expected to impact positively to countries, as it will help reduce conflicts between parties, thus encourage economic development, which is essential for human development. 


This study sought to explain the evolution of warfare with a focus on the transformation experienced in wars. Increased transformation in warfare has led to the use of more sophisticated weapons and adoption of new strategies which were absent in the past generations. Besides, the case of Nyangatom and the Israelites as used in this study shows the simple organization of the past wars where mass and simple tools were used in battles. The study further acknowledges that other than the change in battle strategies used, new weapons have been developed which are simple and more efficient, in attacking enemies. 

However, there are increased concerns that the transformation has made the world more unsafe, an issue that has obtained divided recognition from different scholars. Nonetheless, there is a shared perception that the evolution experienced by the modern army can only be traced back to the ancient warfare as some of the strategies used in the past are still relevant in the current era. However, to manage the different incidents of violence experienced in the current era such as terrorism, there is need to conduct more studies on the evolution of warfare. This will give concerned stakeholders in the management of international security with accurate information on how to address issues regarding warfare evolution. Technology and demand by countries to secure their states remain to be the primary reason behind warfare evolution. 

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  1. Allen, M. W., Bettinger, R. L., Codding, B. F., Jones, T. L., &Schwitalla, A. W. (2016).     Resource scarcity drives lethal aggression among prehistoric hunter-gatherers in central     California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(43), 12120-12125.
  2. Bowles, S. (2009). Did warfare among ancestral hunter-gatherers affect the evolution of human social behaviors?. Science, 324(5932), 1293-1298.
  3. Catino, M. (2015). Tribal Capabilities and Warfare: The Case of Ancient Israel. Saber and     Scroll, 4(1), 4.
  4. Glowacki, L., &Wrangham, R. (2015). Warfare and reproductive success in a tribal population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(2), 348-353.
  5. Zefferman, M. R., & Mathew, S. (2015). An evolutionary theory of large‐scale human warfare:     Group‐structured cultural selection. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and     Reviews, 24(2), 50-61.
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