A world war is a military conflict affecting the majority of the world's countries. World wars usually span multiple continents, and are very bloody and destructive.
The term is usually used to refer to World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945). Both wars involved some degree of participation from most of the world's existing countries, especially through the colonial empires of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, besides the United States and Russia.
Other wars in earlier periods that saw conflict across the world have been considered world wars by some, including the Seven Years' War (1756–1763; Winston Churchill called it "the first world war" in his A History of the English Speaking Peoples), the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
Since the conclusion of World War I, called the "war to end all wars", international organisations have been developed to attempt to prevent the outbreak of new wars. The League of Nations was established after World War I, and collapsed with the outbreak of World War II, after which the United Nations was formed.
Classification as a world war
The specific qualities that make up a world war are open to debate, however, the following are a reasonable set of criteria:
Normally, there are groups of nations on each side in two alliances or distinct groups.
In the American Revolutionary War, the sides were aligned between the United States, France, Spain and the Netherlands against Great Britain and minor German States. The Great War of 1914-1918, the sides were aligned between Japan, China, Brazil, Cuba, United States, British Empire, France, Arabian Empire, Serbia, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Romania and the Russian Empire against the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and the Ottoman Empire.
Happened on more than one continent
The Great War of 1914-1918 was fought in China, The Pacific Ocean, Arabia, Africa and the North Atlantic as well as Europe. The Seven Years War (1754-1763) was fought in India, and North America as well as Europe. The Second World War of 1931-1945 was fought first in China, and then later in Greenland, Alaska, off the coast of Argentina, and in Africa, Arabia and North America as well as Europe and the Pacific Ocean.
Great numbers of deaths
A World War is also charictarized by the great number of deaths, often both military and civilian. The Second World War is an extreme example of this: lowest estimates put the death count at forty million, including many Russian or Chinese civilians, and nearly ten million killed in the Holocaust. Although earlier wars do not exhibit such great numbers, seen in the light of the world's population at the time, they were extremely destructive.
List of world wars
War of the League of Augsburg (1688–1697)
The War of the League of Augsburg was fought by Palatinate, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Spain, Sweden, United Provinces, and England against France, and to a degree the Ottoman Empire. The war was fought in North America and Europe.
War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714)
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought by Great Britain, Spain, German and Italian States against France.
This war was fought in Europe and North America.
War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748)
The War of the Austrian Succession was fought by Prussia, Great Britain Austria, Sardinia, Sweden and the Netherlands against France, Russia, Bavaria, Spain and Saxony.
The war was fought in India and North America as well as Europe.
Seven Years' War (1754–1763)
The Seven Years' War was fought by Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal and Hanover against France, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Saxony The Netherlands and Russia.
Churchill, in his history, called this the First World War.
Fighting occurred in India, the Philippines, North America, Africa and the Caribbean as well as Europe. This world war was also the first to not start in Europe. It started in the Ohio River Valley in present day United States.
American Revolutionary War (1775–1784)
The American Revolutionary War was fought by Great Britain, Madras, and minor German States against France, Kingdom of Mysore, The Netherlands, Spain, Sardinia and the United States of America.
French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802)
The French Revolutionary Wars were fought by France and the Batavian Republic against Naples, Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, Sardinia, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Russian Empire and Ottoman Empire.
This World War was fought in Africa and Europe.
Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815)
The Napoleonic Wars were fought by France and the United States (non-allied with France) against the Great Britain, Spain, Austria, the German states of the Holy Roman Empire, Sweden, The Netherlands, Saxony, Prussia, Russian Empire and Piedmont.
The United States of America did not support France at all, but the War of 1812 between it and the United Kingdom is considered part of the fighting of the greater war.
The war was fought in North America, Europe, Africa, South-East Asia, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean.
This war was a series of wars, allied nations came in and out and not all remained for the duration of this world war. Many consider the Battle of Waterloo to be the last battle of this war.
World War I (1914–1918)
World War I, also called the Great War, was fought from 1914–1918.
World War II (1939–1945)
World War II was fought from 1939–1945. The traditional start of the war is 1 September, 1939, though some historians consider the Japanese attack on China in 1931 to be the beginning of World War II.