Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 20:37:38 -0500
Sender: PHILosophy OF HIstory and theoretical history <PHILOFHI@YorkU.CA>
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <mrkdwhit@WALLET.COM>
Subject: BOOK: _William Eckhardt, Civilizations, Empires and Wars: A Quantitative History of War_(1992)

Book note on William Eckhardt, Civilizations, Empires and Wars

By Mark Douglas Whitaker, 12 May 1999

The study covers 5000 years of history from 3000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. and combines history (war data from Wright, Sorokin, and contemporary data sets; historical empire data from Taagepera) with social science techniques (analysis of variance, factor analysis, correlation analysis) and theory in order to examine the conceptual triangle “civilization”—“empire” — “war”. The study is non-Marxist, but reaches left-leaning conclusions.


many, notably: (1) the twentieth century was by far the most violent century in world history, both in absolute terms and in relative terms (i.e., if population size is taken into consideration). (2) There is a strong correlation between size of empires and their warlike activity (correlation r = 0.9 —p.184-186). (3) There are strong correlations between level of civilization and warlike activity and between level of civilization and size of empires (also r =0.9).


Eckhardt believes/observes that all three (civilation, empire, war) are not “natural”, but are man-made social institutions; “all three of these social institutions—civilizations, empires, and wars—started about the same time, that is about 3000 B.C. …”(p. 205) Eckhardt develops what he calls a “dialectical evolutionary theory” about the relationship between the three institutions. The theory “suggests that expanding civilization increased inequalities which—having been brought about by armed violence — required more violence in order to maintain the status quo.”(p. 205) “In answer to the question “Did civilizations, empires and wars foster one another?’ the answer seems to be an unequivocal ‘Yes'. All three were shown to interrelate among primitive, civilized and modern peoples.” (p. 206)


Only sketchy. Eckhardt sees a major dilemma, namely: technological progress will continue which, according to his observations, will increase war and violence. Like Toynbee, Sorokin and Wright, he criticizes the egoistic, authoritarian and compulsive nature of civilization and recommends “changing the direction of civilization or … changing its structure.” (p. 207)


1. Primitive Warfare; 2. Archaic and Ancient Wars, 3000 to 500 B.C.; 3. Classic Wars, 500 B.C. to A.D. 500; 4. Medieval Wars A.D. 500—1500; 5. Modern War: Overview; 6. Wright's List of Modern Wars, 1480-1964; 7. Levy's List of Great Power Wars, 1495—1975; 8. Sorokin's List of Modern Wars, 1500-1925; 9. Eckhardt's List of Modern Wars, 1500—1990; 10. Civilized Wars Throughout History (Kohn, 2000 B.C. to A.D. 2000); 11. Wars Since the Eighteenth Century; 12. Civilized Battles Throughout History; 13. War-Related Deaths Since 3000 B.C.; 14. A Dialectical Evolutionary Theory; 15. Summary and Conclusions.

The late William Eckhardt was associated with the Canadian Peace Research Institute and the Ted Lentz Peace Research Lab, St.Louis, USA.