The Causes of War
War is complicated and possibly one of the most horrific things in the world. It pits man against man and it dehumanizes everyone. No country truly ever wins a war. It’s an interesting backdrop for many stories because it puts your characters through hell and back. It can be used for worldbuilding because, depending on the source of the war, you can elaborate on the history, culture and religions of the countries in conflict.
Let’s jump right into this!
Religious conflict is probably one of the more complicated sources of war because religion is extremely complicated. In the broadest umbrella terms, there are two sources of religious conflict.
- To survive, a religion needs followers and is constantly vying for new followers to join it and will go and assimilate other people to join it. This type of religious conflict includes things like the crusades and the missionaries in colonial territories.
- Disagreements: Two groups of people worship different gods, one group decides that the other is wrong in some fashion and deserves to die for it. This type of religious conflict is very systematic and includes the Spanish Inquisition, the elimination of Celtic priests and holy people and a whole lot of nasty stuff. (Look up cannibal Christians)
Tread carefully when using religion as a source of conflict; it can get nasty fast.
Economic and Territorial Gain
If you’re wondering who the woman in the portrait is, it’s Catherine the Great. Why did I choose her for this section? Because she extended the reach of Russia throughout northern Europe and gave them a port on the Black Sea, earning Russia massive amounts of money in reparations and pulling them out of a slump caused by her husband pulling out of the Seven Year’s War.
Anyways, countries need money to trade with other countries and they need resources to feed their own people. These resources need space to be produced and when a country runs out of space, it needs to expand. This leads to conquests of smaller neighbouring countries. Remember colonialism? Those were wars and conquests caused by the need for economic and territorial expansion so that England, France, Spain and Portugal would be able to compete with the relatively booming markets of the Indian oceans. Conquering the Americas gave them things like coffee and sugar, as well as furs, all of which sold for ridiculous amounts.
This is probably one of the easier sources of war out there; in it’s barest form: these people have something, this country needs it, so it goes and gets it. You don’t need to spend hours and hours building up to this one.
Raise a glass to freedom,
Something they can never take away,
No matter what they tell you
-The Story of Tonight, Hamilton: An American Musical
Revolution is probably the most common of wars in stories. We see it in Star Wars, Voltron, She-Ra and many others and it appeals to a young adult audience for many reasons. Our teenage years are when we start exploring, start realizing that authority isn’t always right, that it’s okay to be different. Also, like, anarchy is fun.
In real life, governments only work if they offer the people something to believe in, some being rights, freedom and safety, and when they stop offering that, the people have no reason to believe in anymore. That’s when the heads start falling and guns firing. In the American Revolution, the British government taxed the American people to fund wars that didn’t directly benefit them and they had no say in how it was used. “Taxation without representation,” ring any bells?
A word of caution with revolution stories, make sure you figure out who’s replacing your corrupt government before going all ham on it because that’s where you wind up with situations like the Terror, aka ten years of paranoia and murder. It’s fun!
Revenge is probably the most cyclic form of war; two wrongs don’t make things right. It happens when another country believes they were wronged and they take action for it, which leads to the other country taking harsher action for it and it goes round and round forever and ever.
One of my favourite examples of this is the Moonshadow elves in the Dragon Prince. They go after King Harrow and Prince Ezran for the death of the King of the Dragons, which leads to Katolis declaring war on them.
Revenge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. It’s toxic and never actually fixes anything.
Anyways, I hope that this helps and happy writing!