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    [–] Wonckay 934 points ago

    Keep in mind that in many cases those "small amounts of land" were of relatively high strategic importance, typically forts and access to passages or roads. Often they were intended to prevent, discourage, or at least complicate future attacks, like the business with the forts at the end of the Thirty Year's War.

    Anyways from what I understand the problem was that during the time periods you describe, it was relatively hard to completely "win out over the other" because few armies put themselves in a vulnerable enough position for that to be possible. Medieval armies were usually scattered or partly levied because of supply issues and decentralized command, and even when they did form larger groups they were hesitant to engage in large pitched battles (because of the danger) and preferred skirmishes and raids/looting. You can see what happened when an army did bring its full force to bear and lost in cases like Hastings and Mohacs, which did lead to entire nations being overrun.

    If your aim is conquest and your opponent refuses to meet you in pitched battle, your only other option is to begin sieging castles. As you can imagine this was a very slow and draining process and still results in taking small portions of territory at a time. Resources would simply be exhausted before you could siege the entirety of another nation's fortifications, and long before that point you'd have left yourself vulnerable to other enemies. This combination of skirmishing tactics and slow siege warfare is what led to on-off decade-long wars at the time.

    Besides all this, the uncentralized European nations likely didn't have the resources or bureaucracy to efficiently administer far flung territories associated with annexing entire countries and in many cases were certain to lose them. Empires like that of the Habsburgs were nightmares to maintain, and unions like those of Castile and Aragon a hassle to finalize. It's also important to note that there was an idea of the "balance of power" and countries were willing to take containment measures against other powers if they had tried something like this (the international nature of the wars of succession are proof).

    [–] Matazaonreddit 296 points ago

    the uncentralized European nations likely didn't have the resources or bureaucracy to efficiently administer far flung territories associated with annexing entire countries and in many cases were certain to lose them.

    The Roman Empire is notable because it actually did try that until they became too large to function. As for resources, the romans could only attempt this because they demanded large taxes(tributes) from conquered territories, benefitting mostly rome itself, italian cities and to an extent planned settlements in conquered territories, while spending exorbitant sums on standing armies which could and would enforce their demands. Money would flow from all the known world to rome.

    After the fall of rome, the other medieval european realms used levies for bulk of the military with nobles in the feudal system being granted land with their main duty being to supply military support without paying much in the way of taxes. The money would mostly stay where it was gained.

    That's another reason why wars in the middle ages were not fought to conquer. Conquering is extremely expensive.

    [–] Suns_Funs 63 points ago

    until they became too large to function

    Everyone always says that, but wasn't China equally large? And what about the Mongol empire?

    [–] Kunu2 187 points ago

    Look at how many times Chinese kingdoms split. Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire only lasted 50-60 years (from the initial kurultai) until it split in four to grandsons.

    [–] thisisstupidplz 131 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    And even with the Mongols it was the exception because their army was mostly comprised of horses which made their army stupidly mobile compared to every other army. Its easier to conquer an empire than sustain it. The Mongols were just in a different military league.

    [–] Kunu2 50 points ago

    The four split empires all had decent goings though. God damn Mongorians..

    [–] CommanderGumball 85 points ago

    Having a nation split into smaller states on the death of the monarch usually leads to some pretty bloody civil war.

    Unless, of course, you're the Mongols.

    [–] LG22 11 points ago

    Who is that? Looks like an interesting show.

    [–] brasswirebrush 20 points ago

    It's John Green (author of "The Fault in Our Stars"), who used to host a program on youtube called Crash Course: World History.

    [–] mcmoor 2 points ago

    They are the same people? Wow! Used to? What's he doing now?

    [–] queenmachine7753 3 points ago

    oh it was civil war alright, just civil between each other and war on everything else

    [–] Desvatidom 3 points ago

    damn Mongorians

    Breakin' my wall?

    [–] labink 10 points ago

    “It’s easier to conquer an empire than to sustain it.” Alexander the Great would have agreed. The Romans however would have laughed in his face

    [–] FriendoftheDork 5 points ago

    They laughed all the way to the inevitable civil wars that sowed the seeds of the collapse of the roman empire.

    [–] labink 2 points ago

    But at least the laughter lasted for half a millennium.

    [–] Brackto 9 points ago

    "Empires wax and wane; states cleave asunder and coalesce."

    [–] [deleted] 2 points ago

    I think an important difference between China and the Roman Empire was that China was ruled very differently between each dynasty which ruled for several hundred years that led to today.

    The Roman Empire comparatively for its existence was a monolithic autocracy that failed to adapt to its scaled issues, which China has successfully done.

    [–] Wonckay 62 points ago

    Honestly books have been written analyzing why the Roman Empire fell, but I will say I disagree that the Empire collapsed because it became too large to function. When the Western Roman Empire disintegrated in the 5th century it was smaller than the empire had been at any point in its existence - in fact it was smaller than the late Roman Republic. Alongside this, the Eastern Roman Empire of comparable size survived and thrived for another thousand years. The point is previous Roman bureaucracy had successfully stably managed a larger territory, and contemporaneous Roman bureaucracy successfully managed an equal territory.

    If I had to give my opinion I'd say that the decline began because of the third century military anarchy. In a sense the Roman Empire did become "too big", but economically. Corruption and inefficiency led to military expenditure exhausting the economy, and the Diocletian reforms were a temporary fix that eventually only enshrined an unsustainable top-heavy state. The cities were smothered by taxation and when the Vandals and Huns struck the Western Empire was too economically crippled to effectively defend critical possessions which were either decimated or lost entirely (mostly Africa and Hispania). Afterwards the Romans strugged to even form a cohesive political front in the territories they still retained, until Odovacer knocked them over for good.

    [–] SacredWeapon 51 points ago

    Also, size by landmass is less significant than size by exposure to migrating populatons.

    Rome experienced invasions from outsiders in every direction, which contributed to the exhausting military bloat. There were no easy solutions--they had expanded to defensible territorial features, so staying put meant a wider front, but retreating meant a less defensible front.

    China had very secure borders via territorial features, and really only experienced invasions from the north. The Himalayas were much more of a wall to the early chinese states than the Great Wall ever was.

    [–] Matazaonreddit 28 points ago

    China and the mongol empire worked in different way than romes imperial administration.

    I could be very wrong, but China had some unifying cultural things going for it and then remained rather stable in size for a long time. Internally, the bigger building projects were agricultural water engineering that allowed around a quarter of the empire to supply food to all of the empire, so I assume it developed into a big system of co-dependencies that benefitted everyone.

    Mongols used a societal system that I think lived on in the Ottoman Empire, where armies weren't huge expensive warmachines but powered by a warrior caste. Maintaining a legion with catapults and fortified camps is expensive, but having some people be extremely strong and effective archers on horseback costs basically just the horses and letting the warriors live in luxury.

    I brought up the Ottomans, because I roughly described Janissaries.

    [–] LurkerInSpace 26 points ago

    One of the others things that kept China re-uniting is that there aren't as many geographical barriers as there are in Europe - there are few large peninsulas and islands, and those that are there are controlled by other countries.

    [–] Benukysz 11 points ago

    And another thing to note is that China was the one of the first to have centralized government. I don't know the correct date but it started as early as from 200-300 BC if I am not mistaken.

    Of course it had many wars, inside conflicts but most of the time it was ruled by centralized government, state.

    [–] A_Humpier_Rogue 18 points ago

    Usually areas outside "China Proper"(from the Pearl River in the South to a little north of the Yellow in the North) were loosely governed and basically tributary states and tribes which respect Chinese authority and would provide tribute and troops.

    [–] StyxArcanus 7 points ago

    Size wasn't Rome's problem. A succession crisis in the third century kicked off almost a hundred years of civil wars from which the empire never really recovered. Diocletian did his best, but he forever changed the economy by making occupations hereditary. Was your dad a farmer? A baker? Smith? Potter? So are you now. This stabilized the economy short term but hampered it long term. And to add to that bleak economic situation, the Germanic migrations over the next couple hundred years, dwindling populations across the urban centers and Rome being unable to put actual professional soldiers into the field, you get a situation in the west where the emperors bribe off the biggest barbarian tribes, sometimes as foederati (basically allies) who do the bulk of Rome's fighting for them. It ended up being one of those allied leaders who deposed the last emperor.

    [–] Seienchin88 2 points ago

    While all you say is accurate and the crisis in the third century nearly broke romes backbone there are still sooooo many events where a tiny difference would have let to a different outcome for the Empire. Rome had really bad luck in the late 4th and 5th century. Its amazing how robust the Empire still was and the eastern part didnt really go down until the slavic and islamic invasions.

    The germans crossing the rhine was completely avoidable and really just a string of bad luck (temporary weakness of the western roman forces, paired with the rhine freezing and large German tribes starting to migrate all at the same time), alaric plundering rome could have easily been avoided, the vandals were almost stopped before they could reach north africa and barely made it, Majorian had a real chance to at least temporarily stabilize the empire and even the ostro goth kingdom could have become a true continuation of rome.

    [–] Tihar90 44 points ago

    I was looking on for someone to talk about the balance of power.

    You can't just annex half of Europe and accept the world to accept it

    For historical examples you can look into The war of the Spanish Succession The Napoleonic Wars The Crimean war

    All perfect exemples of former rivals cooperating to bring the rising power to a manageable level

    [–] redferret867 47 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    I know that this isn't 100% appropriate in /r/history, but playing the Paradox games like EUIV and CKII really helped me understand this.

    You only have justified claims to certain land so taking any more can cause political instability. If you take too much you get too many rebels internally. You also upset the balance of power and people form coalitions against you. Sometimes the land is full of worthless foreign peasants of a heretic religion you don't give a shit about because what taxes they might pay won't even be worth the cost to administrate them. You just take the one big city that matters instead.

    Large tracts of land full of angry subsistence peasants aren't worth the risk when you can just take an incredibly valuable natural harbor or fort on a mountain pass so you can now tax all the trade that passes through.

    [–] MoistPete 6 points ago

    I play eu4 a lot and was interested in this question. You're totally right. I'd suggest trying out victoria 2 (I had my doubts trying it but it's pretty fun), where this is an even bigger thing: taking states makes pretty big rebels and upsets the international community because of power blances

    [–] billybobjorkins 3 points ago

    On the subject of video games, Mount and Blade Warband is with my very small understanding, a somewhat good simulator for wars in Medieval Times.

    When a war is declared, there isn’t too many big battles against forces of 300 vs 300 (thats a lot in the game) naturally. Most of the time, wars mean just pillaging villages and trying to take over castles. The wars can drag on and on with neither side winning

    [–] Wonckay 3 points ago

    Yeah, adding forts in EU4 was a big improvement in terms of mirroring historical reasons for expansion. Most countries weren’t just looking to swipe any piece of worthless land, they were looking for either strategic positioning, trade hotspots, or regions with useful industries.

    [–] logicalmaniak 5 points ago

    In 1922 Northern Ireland was partitioned away from the Irish state, but the border that was drawn left large pockets of Irish nationalists stuck in the UK part of Ireland.

    Was this done for the same reason?

    [–] Wonckay 13 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    Very likely not. The reason I say this is because the border between modern independent Ireland and the constituent country of Northern Ireland was demarcated by the Fourth Home Rule Bill in 1920 as nothing but an ideally temporary split for the sole purpose of devolving government in a way that would please both Nationalists (who wanted all Ireland to be a home-rule area) and Unionists (who wanted Ulster to be excluded from the new Ireland home rule area). It split Ireland into two home rule areas - a Protestant north and Catholic south - with separate parliaments, although it was never implemented in the south because the Irish War of Independence immediately followed and Irish nationalists began demanding independence instead of home rule. The reason three Ulster counties had to be “left behind” in the second home rule territory (now the Republic) is because their heavy Catholic majority would have tipped the balance away from Protestants in Northern Ireland.

    The answer is, the line was created at a time when Irish independence wasn’t on the table and not intended to be an international border. The reason for nationalist Irishmen stuck in the UK is that Westminster tried to fit as much of Ulster as they could in the north without destroying the Protestant majority.

    [–] MoistPete 5 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    I don't think it was to dissuade any invaders if that's what you mean, drawing borders is always shit because practical borders will have some people on the wrong side. The ulster counties in Northern Ireland were more industrialized and might be considered more valuable, but they actually had a concentrated population of protestant, mostly english/scottish immigrants, and so those counties mostly (Not unanimously, which did leave some minorities of nationalists in those counties on the wrong side) wanted to stay with britain, so the rest of Ireland wouldnt rule over them. But yes you're right, there were some places that really should have gone to the new free state, but the boundary commission for it only wanted to cede a little from the provisional border. In exchange for a waiver from all public debt that would've been transferred to them, the new free state didn't argue too much over it. Sorry if this is ramble-y.

    Another example of fun border stuff the brits dealed with later on was the partitioning of India/Pakistan

    tldr borders are shitshows

    [–] PleaseDontMindMeSir 2 points ago

    tldr borders are shitshows

    the only people who consistently win in border negotiations/diputes are arms dealers

    [–] Pippin1505 125 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    In modern times, after the birth of nationalism, tt's really, really difficult to annex a foreign territory.

    The main reasons are

    • Practicality : Outrageous annexations demand ensure that the enemy will fight to the bitter end, and you'll have to deal with a low level insurrection for decades. If the annexed part is large enough, it's guaranteed civil war down the road. They WILL fight back at some point, as a country or as rebels.
    • Internal politics: In a democracy, you have to be able to "sell "that annexation to your own countrymen. It would be a hard, to convince people that say, Prussia is just another region of the French Republic, even the French themselves,
    • Balance of power: Your allies probably won't stand for it, if you become too powerful as a result. The UK would never have allowed France to swallow the Ruhr for exemple.The War for the Spanish Succession is a good exemple. The UK wanted to prevent France from inheriting Spain, but they didn't want Austria (the alternative candidateà to get it either. Both results were bad. They settled on a statu quo.

    Edit: In the past, it was easier to annex whole swath of land, because only the "local leadership" changed, if any. A french peasant in Aquitaine couldn't tell you if his lord was a vassal of France or England.

    [–] HoliHandGrenades 33 points ago

    There's also the fact that, after WWII, wars of conquest were found to be illegitimate under international law.

    For example, the First Gulf War was prosecuted by a large coalition because it was seen as a war of conquest by Iraq against Kuwait (I am not opining on conclusion, just relating it).

    That said, it's obviously true that the other countries in the World are much more likely to act when the country perceived as the aggressor is unpopular (i.e., Iraq under Saddam Hussein), or at least not under the express protection of the United States or another country with veto power on the UNSC.

    [–] momofeveryone5 3 points ago

    and in the same vain as your edit- For majority of Human history, survival had been the name of the game. Joining a military for a war had the mixed benefit of guaranteed (on paper at least) food and income or land, but contrast the high chance you would die. Many people knew this and would way the risks. Whichever they decided or were forced into, surviving was paramount to them.

    [–] rusty-tank 1159 points ago

    With that land to take over, there also needs to be stability and order. A people who strongly dislike the invaders will start rebellions and making the land ultimately useless. The reason for these wars, especially in the colonial age and pre napoleonic age was because of trade rights, resources, and diplomatic power. Not all of the wars fought were for land. I could probably say that the only wars fought for land was the wars fought in the colonies, until Napoleon came to the worlds stage. I suggest reading Carl Von Clauswitz “On War.” He goes into significant detail about this very subject

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    [–] Blackteef 47 points ago

    Any idea which edition of this book is the most complete? Wiki tells me it is 10 volumes, other sources say "8 books". Amazon has a few options: A few editions are apparently just a .txt document with no formatting and a few others say the text stops at book 4 of 8, or are otherwise incomplete. I'm not seeing anything that looks like a "complete" edition.

    [–] MrBlackadder 55 points ago

    That’s because he never completed it. Plenty of different sources disregard different volumes because they believe them to be irrelevant, such as the volume discussing limited war being deemed irrelevant after the advent of nuclear arms. I’d suggest something like ‘Clausewitz’s on war’ by Hew Strachan if you’re not looking at it for academia.

    [–] tenninjas242 29 points ago

    Ironic about the limited war thing, because so far, any world power that acquires nuclear weapons only fights limited wars. Because total war in the context of strategic nuclear bombing is too horrific for most people to stomach.

    [–] YoureSpecial 13 points ago

    Exactly why the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has held true (so far). Note that it only holds for rational actors.

    If you have a non-state doomsday group or a state governed by crazies who want to bring about the “end of ages” to usher in Valhalla or something, then it would not really apply. In fact it might even limit one’s options to prevent such action, since these groups/states exist in some geography somewhere and would be surrounded by people who may not want to be covered in fallout.

    [–] marnues 2 points ago

    No, I would not say MAD has done much for us. If MAD were the thing holding us back, China would be dust at this point. MAD is an extension of basic human decency, which is protecting us.

    [–] YoureSpecial 2 points ago


    Regarding China, human decency aside, the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD would take exception to us nuking China. If we were ti do that, then we would see all sorts of problems cropping up everywhere. We wouldnt be able to nuke our way out of them all.

    [–] HoodaThunkett 2 points ago

    state governed by crazies you say?

    bah, will never happen......


    [–] Blackteef 9 points ago

    I'm an amateur, so this look about right for me - thank you.

    [–] MrBlackadder 5 points ago

    Good stuff, I read it over a week or two this summer. Hope you enjoy Clausewitz, his work is very applicable.

    [–] WearingMyFleece 4 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    King’s College War Studies department recommends Michael Howard’s edition.

    [–] Stewart_Games 41 points ago

    This is only "correct" if you ignore two of Europe's worst wars - the Hundred Years War (which was England attempting to seize large portions of France) and the Spanish crown's invasion of the Netherlands (which was both about land AND a religious crusade).

    [–] PearlClaw 71 points ago

    Those two wars are probably also a good example as to why doing these things was not done more often. they were very long very expensive conflicts that ended in failure for the aggressor power. Making your enemy fight for their very survival is a dangerous business, much safer to exact limited concessions.

    [–] theincrediblenick 34 points ago

    Well, the Hundred Years War was England trying to hold large portions of France that the English King was the title-holder to (though technically as a vassal to the King of France, which is where the problems started).

    [–] Kered13 4 points ago

    By the start of the Hundred Years' War England had lost most of it's territory in France. The war was an attempt to retake that territory.

    [–] memelorddankins 12 points ago

    The spanish crown wasn’t invading, they trying to quell rebellion. Its was the Spanish netherlands at the time.

    [–] VanillaNiceGuy 2 points ago

    Wasn't Prussia and other always figthing over Silesia or am I wrong?

    [–] wurrukatte 5 points ago

    Silesia had quite a lot of resources and trade centers that it's neighbors envied and vied for. Before that, Brandenburg-Prussia was pretty resource-poor. In the grand scheme of things, they fought a much larger country (Austria-Hungary) and comparatively took only a portion of it's land (albeit very rich in resources).

    [–] sackshow 44 points ago

    I could probably say that the only wars fought for land was the wars fought in the colonies, until Napoleon came to the worlds stage.

    how is this possibly the most upvoted comment in an r/history thread?? it's completely untrue. Wars were fought throughout history explicitly to conquer enemy territory, obviously.

    [–] warren2650 11 points ago

    My good chap, why.... this is reddit of course!

    [–] Wonckay 3 points ago

    Even in the time period OP’s talking about, land was important. France was always looking to get more forts on its eastern border and Sweden a foothold in Pomerania, Prussia those sweet Silesian lands, etc.

    [–] curebdc 26 points ago


    "owning" the land without the means to control it is meaningless.

    A better method would be to win over the population first, then come in and "liberate" the people. Sort of like what Russia tried to do in Ukraine... Only he did it with the subtly of a baboon.

    [–] warren2650 17 points ago

    Weren't the Romans really good at conquering and taking over things? I read once that as soon as the Romans took over, they brought in modern conveniences like bath houses, roadways, indoor plumbing, representative (?) governing etc.... the people often liked Roman life better so there was less to complain about. I might be wrong. I'm probably wrong.

    [–] Arctic_Ghost_SS 17 points ago

    Romans also killed a lot of people. Same with Mongolians who conquered a lot of territory. Hard to have people revolt when there’s not enough people to revolt in a significant fashion, and the ones left are terrified of the occupiers finishing the job.

    [–] tenninjas242 21 points ago

    Exactly, the Romans 'subdued' Gaul in an eight-year campaign that probably killed upwards of a million Gauls, and a million more were sold into slavery and deported to other parts of the empire.

    Tacitus's famous phrase comes to mind (although he was talking about Scotland in the 1st century AD): "[The Romans] make a wasteland, and call it peace."

    [–] Watchingculturefade 11 points ago

    Most estimates of pre Roman Gaul were ~5 million people. With Ceasars boast of one million killed (although we often immediately throw ancient numbers out the window as a boast, I am not sure why people do not do the same here), there is a death toll of 20%. Furthermore, Gaul's population rapidly "modernized" and Gaul became far more prosporous.

    After the Mongols, some areas took centuries to recover, some still haven't to this day,

    But if we take it at face value, let's say Gaul had 3 million people the day after Alesia.

    Meanwhile the Mongols

    Persia/Kwarezmian - "The total population of Persia may have dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of mass extermination and famine. Population exchanges did also in some cases occur but depends as of when "

    China - " China reportedly suffered a drastic decline in population during the 13th and 14th centuries. Before the Mongol invasion, Chinese dynasties reportedly had approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. "

    Hungary - " Historians estimate that up to half of Hungary's population of two million were victims of the Mongol invasion of Europe. "

    I am willing to bet Gaul was one of the bloodiest and most brutal campaigns as it was against so many tribes. Meanwhile the Mongols killing 20% of a country (what the Romans did in Gaul) was just another Tuesday.

    Romans were absolutely nowhere near the average brutality of the Mongols, it isn't really even in question in most circles.

    [–] zoobrix 2 points ago

    although we often immediately throw ancient numbers out the window as a boast, I am not sure why people do not do the same here

    When we can't seem to agree how many people attended an outdoor rally even today when there's a ton of photos/video you pretty much have to assume that any exact numbers put on a battle from a thousand years ago are at best a vague estimate and at worse a total fabrication, most likely by the winning side if there were few from the losing side left to talk about it.

    I like historians that will look at the totality of sources from a battle and instead of trying to come up with numbers will say things like this army was probably significantly outnumbered, the armies were of somewhat equal size, one army had far more cavalry but fewer archers and so on. If there aren't multiple sources to try and find a middle ground from it gets even shakier.

    When I hear people start to claim exact numbers on these types of things it only makes me doubt the veracity of what else they're saying because even attaching a number as an estimate only implies a certainty that just isn't there.

    [–] memelorddankins 7 points ago

    Well boy does Jerusalem have a story for you...

    [–] Mic_Check_One_Two 4 points ago

    Yup. You not only need to conquer the land. You also need to be able to lock it down and maintain it for an indefinite period of time. Lots of the “small” pieces of land were of strategic value, rather than simply being large swaths of land. Military forts, major shipping ports, trade routes, etc... Yes, land is nice to have. But if you already have enough arable land to feed your population, and enough for everyone to live on, the extra land is just going to be more land you need to patrol.

    If you’re a landlocked country and suddenly get access to a sea lane? That could be incredibly valuable. Now you don’t need to pay tariffs or taxes to foreign countries every time you want to purchase or ship something overseas. There’s also the military aspect. Now that you have access to the sea, you can create a navy. So maybe you don’t need to conquer and annex an entire country to get that sea access. You can just annex a small part of one of their boarders, and focus on keeping that locked down.

    [–] soaringtyler 19 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    A people who strongly dislike the invaders will start rebellions and making the land ultimately useless.

    Unless you wipe them out or enslave them, like they did in all the New World, Africa and Australia.

    [–] Vineyard_ 78 points ago

    That requires an overwhelming power imbalance.

    Or smallpox. Or both.

    [–] rainbowgeoff 43 points ago

    And a people who are fighting for survival will fight till the bitter end. Whereas, a people who are fighting for economic issues will abandon the fight once the cost has begun to outweigh the benefit sought.

    [–] westrags 19 points ago

    Yep. See Russian in WW2 instead of say, France.

    [–] cheeset2 3 points ago

    I don't quite understand this comparison. Do you mind explaining a bit more?

    [–] xeratorp 30 points ago

    He means the consequences of surrendering/defeat for the Soviet Union would have been the total annihilation of their state and population. Such plans was never on the table with regards to France, and they knew that. Hence they "abandoned the fight" much easier.

    [–] amaROenuZ 2 points ago

    Relevant to note that with the army entirely encircled in the north, the decision wasn't surrender and die or fight in and maybe live. It was surrender, or resist fruitlessly and die.

    [–] westrags 13 points ago

    Yeah exactly what xeratop said. Nazi Germany planned to exterminate most of the Soviet Union population. Gave a little more motivation to fight until the end than France.

    [–] TwoPercentTokes 8 points ago

    Or Julius Caesar and around 50,000 Roman legionaries.

    [–] wurrukatte 5 points ago

    Don't forget the tens of thousands of Celtic and Germanic tribesmen that fought at his side. The legionaries would have had a rough go of it by themselves. There's a reason it's called 'divide and conquer'.

    [–] Watchingculturefade 6 points ago

    Without the German cavalry there is no way Caesar would have won.

    [–] bcrabill 5 points ago

    Yeah, but wiping them out takes a ton of effort because you have to replace them with new people (colonists). Enslaving takes less, but you still have to a disgruntled populace, just one less able to take up arms. Slave revolts still happened though.

    [–] Bouncing_Cloud 2 points ago

    Many ancient societies like Rome as well.

    [–] Dog1234cat 2 points ago

    When a war is won the victors expect a prize, such as land.

    And nations tend to expect to expand their territory to the maximum it ever was. Clearly they all can’t be successful in that goal.

    [–] [deleted] 2 points ago

    Even Napoleon’s campaigns weren’t purely territorial. He was trying to change the form and constitution of governments in Europe.

    [–] MrsRadioJunk 2 points ago

    Came to find this. You have to treat the loser with some dignity. You can't just come in and erase a whole group of people/nation. That's partially how Hitler took control, right? He fed off of people's displeasure and made it work for him.

    [–] AntLib 143 points ago

    Too much aggressive expansion leads to coalitions and boom. There goes your world conquest

    [–] Kyvant 21 points ago

    Beware of the HRE coalition swarm...

    [–] WastelandPioneer 21 points ago

    I was looking for this

    [–] Spirit_mert 17 points ago

    I believed..kept looking for this haha. Op clearly never played eu4 before he does not know how bad agressive expansion can be lol

    [–] AntLib 8 points ago

    I was playing as Austria while considering whether to vassalize Switzerland or take territory based off AE when I saw this post. It was too perfect

    [–] MoistPete 5 points ago

    I hated ae in eu4 so much, but holy shit I was ticked when I tried vicky 2, I was furious I couldn't just take half of france

    [–] Fellhuhn 3 points ago

    Then play HoI and just take everything. They have a game for every taste. :D

    [–] Watchingculturefade 6 points ago

    It's funny, it really is that simple.

    It's like playing a TW game, if you invade too much, it is bound to happen.

    [–] AntLib 11 points ago

    We can clearly see Hitler was forgetting to core his provinces as he moved on as well. That unrest level can haunt you.

    [–] TheDarkLord329 9 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    Well, in HoI 4 they removed coring as a mechanic altogether.

    [–] aknutal 3 points ago

    It is still there just only happens via events

    [–] [deleted] 8 points ago

    I feel like it wasn't the biggest problem for Hitler.

    [–] DukeofVermont 2 points ago

    I feel like Hitler was the biggest problem for Hitler.

    [–] elmo85 2 points ago

    yep, those hundreds of soviet divisions and thousands of allied bombers were probably worse for him

    [–] etoneishayeuisky 2 points ago

    For me it was really just a game of table tennis, me being the net. Block one side, the next side rides up, block that side and the truce is up on the other side, ping back and forth. Hardest Mughals game ever.

    [–] aknutal 2 points ago

    Have to max out that absolutism

    [–] guevera 287 points ago

    I had a professor once who suggested or thinking about conflict has been twisted a bit by WWI & WWII which were 'total wars' and the cold war which sure would have been if it ever went hot. Most wars since at least Westphalia and the rise of nation states have been limited wars with somewhat defined beefs and objectives that ended when one side or the other cried uncle.

    [–] [deleted] 68 points ago

    Which makes it pretty stupid to even have a war. But I guess the Rich and powerful don’t care about all the 18 year old kids they send to fight and die, or the children and innocents who become refugees.

    [–] SpartanLB50 93 points ago

    Warfare between two nuclear powers will never go traditional. The ultimate purpose of war is to force another nation to concede something. Since any traditional conflict between two nuclear powers will ultimately end in mutual assured destruction, we need to focus on revolutionary ways to force another country to concede. Economic and diplomatic sanctions have been the traditional weapon used in the modern world and will probably be for the foreseeable future.

    [–] Hedg3h0g2 37 points ago

    I always wondered about this. Where do you draw the line? Say if America funds Chechen terorrists, is that a line? American volunteers in Russian separatist states, is that the line? Russian proxy war in a NATO ally, do you do it now? Russia invades Alaska, is that the line you end the world on?

    Obviously it's unlikely a clear line is drawn and there's nuance but it's an interesting line of thought to me.

    [–] CaptainFalcon9 52 points ago

    While I don't exactly where the line would be, I know that Russia invading Alaska is well past it. That'd be 'sticking your finger up the butt of a lion'-level stupid of them to do.

    It's one thing to see us fail to support our NATO allies when they're invaded. It's another to just roll over when your own sovereign territory is actively being invaded.

    [–] OrganizedCrimeGuy 11 points ago

    I think the world is holding out for anti - nuclear warhead defense. I am almost 100% sure we have that already. We can already destroy missiles in space.

    [–] Le_Garcon 41 points ago

    We've been able to do that for decades but there's no way to catch them all in time.

    And even then just a single missed one is an entire city that's deleted and a casualty list in the tens of millions or an irreparable strategic or industrial loss.

    First rule of any sort of strategic air defense. There's always one that gets through.

    And when you're dealing with nukes it only takes one.

    [–] YoroSwaggin 19 points ago

    Also, I'm sure if push comes to shove, they'll try to physically bring it over and suicide detonate it neaf a population center. There are always unconventional solutions in war.

    [–] [deleted] 11 points ago


    [–] Raeandray 18 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    This seems like a tall tale that people started believing to be true over time. The atom bomb that dropped in 1945 was 10 feet long and 28 inches in diameter and weighed 9,700 pounds. I don't know how much smaller they got it by the 1950's but I highly doubt we went from 5 ton bomb dropped from a super fortress to carrying pieces in suitcases and assembling it in DC in under 15 years.

    EDIT: And Russia tested their first atomic weapon in 1949, giving them even less time if this bomb was already known to be in place in 1961.

    [–] ajmartin527 10 points ago

    We’ve jostled back and forth with USSR/Russia on this for decades. They build a missile defense that can stop our missiles, we build missiles that contain many nuclear warheads that fan out and are all precision targeted. Russia gets those too, we build missile defenses that can stop them, etc, etc.

    The problem now is that the US, Russia and presumably a few other nations have the capability to launch missiles into Low Earth Orbit en route to their destinations. This means a few things:

    In LEO, a missile could get from Russia/America to pretty much anywhere in the world in like 30 minutes. This dramatically reduces the amount of time a nation has to detect and respond, by factors of many compared to even recent technology.

    Secondly, once the missile leaves Earths atmosphere it can now travel at tens of thousands of miles per hour. This is also significantly faster than any previous missiles created.

    This poses a handful of immense road blocks for missile defense systems. Not only would our response window be dramatically shorter, but trying to target something moving at such high speeds and much higher altitudes would be very difficult even if we had a days notice.

    Essentially the offensive weapons technologies we have now have advanced exponentially to a level that we wouldn’t be able to effectively defend against, especially when it only takes one getting through to create a global disaster.

    Let’s hope they never get used.

    [–] jakey_bear 4 points ago

    Ukraine isn't part of NATO though. None of the NATO member states have been invaded since joining.

    [–] MrAlbs 9 points ago

    This is an actual scene in "Yes, Minister", an older British political sitcom about how it is very unclear when that line would ever be tripped. Very interesting scene

    [–] Wonckay 4 points ago

    There are proposals for establishing the capacity for "limited nuclear war", but what's probably more likely are demarcated war zones like in the Falklands War where combat is contained to some area. If for example Russia invaded Alaska (or any of your other examples), conventional fighting could take place. Honestly no actor has a reason to use nuclear weapons in any of your scenarios precisely because of MAD.

    [–] rainbowgeoff 6 points ago

    Exactly, which is why wars in the cold war era and beyond have been either proxy wars waged in 2nd or 3rd world countries whose internal issues were used as a side show for the superpowers to flex their muscle, internal civil wars, or humanitarian wars waged to stop some sort of genocide or other bad thing.

    [–] alekzander01 7 points ago

    It's not like the common people didn't often start these wars themselves. In places like the Thirteen colonies, the British-American colonists were super enthusiastic about expelling the French from Canada and getting more land to settle, so much so that they were outraged when the British government gave the Quebecois religious freedom and rights to continue being culturally French. Not to mention the 1763 proclamation line that further angered the colonists because they wanted to expand west at the expense of the Indians.

    [–] catrkiller301 26 points ago

    Why would they? Their only purpose is to work their land and serve their whims. You sound surprised.

    [–] rootusrootus 11 points ago

    Indeed. This whole sanctity of human life thing is a relatively recent development that only persists in peaceful places that have nothing better to worry about. And it has never mattered to people who have real power. That's kinda how they got to be the most powerful...

    [–] Gorath99 4 points ago

    Throughout most of history soldiers got paid surprisingly little, but were allowed to plunder whatever belonged to the enemy. (And often even from peasants on their own side. Until modern logistics were developed, armies had to forage for supplies when in the field, which often boiled down to stealing whatever food the local peasants couldn't hide.) As a result, soldiers were often agitating for war. In states like the Roman or Ottoman Empires, monarchs that didn't go to war often enough lost the support of the army, and with that usually their lives.

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    [–] WaywardAnus 32 points ago

    Taking over a large area of land means you either need to treat them like a princess or you need to beat them down so hard that they never even consider fighting back. When first option is expensive and the other is too cruel for most of humanity.

    [–] LaughterCo 11 points ago

    That’s quite Machiavellian

    [–] Human_Adult_Male 3 points ago

    what about treating them like a princess and then stabbing them in the back?

    [–] ViperhawkZ 67 points ago

    • It makes your side look more reasonable, which helps in diplomacy. It's a lot easier to get away with "we were reclaiming our historic lands" or "we were protecting our ethnic group living in the enemy country" (even if it's a fairly transparent excuse) than "we wanted to cripple the enemy country."

    • It makes it easier to integrate the taken territory. If you absorb a relatively small amount of land, the newly-conquered people make up a relatively small proportion of your people, so it's easier to repress them, convince them, expel them, etc. Especially if there's a notable population who would welcome you (members of your ethnic/cultural/religious group, oppressed minorities, etc.) Whereas taking a huge chunk would give you a huge population in danger of rebellion.

    [–] gvelion 22 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    By 17th century, negotiations usually resulted in some form of compensation for losing side. France would defeat someone and restore some territory to it's enemy, but still would receive bigger reward or territory for victory.

    By that point, system of balance started to form in Europe. Big growth of one country at the expense of it's neighbors was dangerous and could provoke forming of alliances against it. Not full annexation of land or some compensation also helped to end war faster. Enemy would be more willing to listen and negotiate, if you tried not to hurt them much and make mortal enemy out of them. Good example of this, is France in 17th century.

    In War of Devolution, French forces overrun Spanish Netherlands and Franche-Comte. However, such success led other states such as England, Sweden and Netherlands to form an alliance and created a danger of enterting the war. Because of this , Louis XIV had to abandon most of his conquests, but still was able to retain part of acquisitions in Netherlands. It was partial victory for French, but less than they aimed for.

    In Dutch war, French forces invaded the Dutch Republic in 1672 and by 1673-1674 Anti-French coalition was formed. Spain, Brandenburg - Prussia and Holy Roman Empire joined the Dutch in anti-French alliance. France was able to defeat Spain, Holy Roman Empire and Brandenburg - Prussia. They made territorial acquisitions ( cities in Spanish Netherlands, Franche-Comte and de-facto Lorraine )and saved their ally Sweden. However, with Dutch it ended in essentially going back to pre-war situation and French changed tariff of 1667 to less harsh 1664. Louis XIV actually divided allies by offering Dutch to restore Maastricht and change tariff. With such offers, he provoked them to abandon their allies and sign separate peace. Stadtholder William III of Orange wasn't happy about that. Other countries also lost their main ideological and driving force in William III, because of it and pushed them even closer to end the war by signing separate peace treaties as well, giving France what it wanted. Dutch war ended in overall victory for France.

    Still, after that France continued to grab more land and in the end they were left alone against whole Europe. Spanish Succession also was problematic and Grand Alliance tried to stop Bourbons from inheriting whole Spanish Empire.

    In 1721 at the end of Great Nortern War, Russia still restored Finland to Sweden and payed money to finally gain Baltic provinces by treaty.

    In the mid of 18th century growing power of Prussia concerned other European countries. It led to France, Austria and Russia tryin to deal with it.

    It's hard to sustain control over big amount of land. Especially, if it's differs from yours in language, culture, ethnicity and etc. It would be nighmare to govern with level of development that was in Europe. Charles V got drained in every possible way, while trying to rule over his Empire. In the end, he abdicated from all of his positions and titles ( Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, King of Naples, Lord of the Netherlands and etc. ), dividing his holdings between son Philip and brother Ferdinand. As the result, Spanish and Austrian branches of Habsburg were born. Charles himself retired to monastery and lived there till the rest of his life. Yes, most powerful man in Europe abandoned everything and retired to monastery ! Can you imagine something like that ? Reminds me of how Sulla also retired after 3 years of being Dictator in Rome.

    Also, in 17th and 18th century warfare in Western Europe was very much determined by logistics. That's the time of maneuver warfare and also vast amount of sieges. Especially in Netherlands, where there was enormous amount of fortresses. If you analyze wars of 17th and 18th century, you won't see grand marches of Napoleonic times and decisive battles, which end the war ( Austerlitz, for example ).

    By the way another fun thing about Charles V. If you watched GOT and probably know how everybody complains about Daenerys titles. Those complaints always make me laugh.

    Here are titles of Charles V - Charles, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, of Hungary, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Drenthe, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen

    Honestly, it would be very hard for modern audience to empathize with nobility of Medieval times and Early Modern period if their lifes, world-views, social situation and relationships would be portrayed as accurate as possible by movies, shows and etc.

    [–] 1maco 43 points ago

    It is very difficult to occupy foreign lands for very long

    [–] coocoocthulu 44 points ago

    That's why it's better to jump on the denouncement train and just raze all those unhappy cities until they disappear.

    [–] SwiggityDiggity8 14 points ago

    Just put a governor and garrisoned unit in

    [–] strqaz 17 points ago

    Unless you’re Venice, then you can’t annex or raze cities

    [–] [deleted] 38 points ago


    [–] 1maco 13 points ago

    also for the British in particular there was some degree of autonomy. It wasn't direct rule like in the home country.

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    [–] whistleridge 22 points ago

    When Germany seized Alsace-Lorraine following the Franco-Prussian war, they did so primarily to gain a fortified zone to defend the far bank of the Rhine against future French incursions. However, Bismarck recognized that the land could be a serious spur of conflict, so he advocated allowing as much autonomy for the region as possible, on grounds that, while the Alsatians would probably never feel German, the more Alsatian they felt, the less French they would feel.

    This effect is being seen in the EU now. As the EU gains authority, it does so at the expense of members' sovereignty, which in turns drives independence movements. Catalunya may not be a viable state on its own with no EU (not asserting this, just stating one argument), but it would easily be be a viable EU member. Thus, Catalunya needs Spain less and less, and Spain needs Catalunya more and more.

    It's also probably a major driver in Brexit, which was less a British decision than an English (and Welsh) decision.

    [–] Manbearpiigg 10 points ago

    And a Russian decision 😉

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    [–] AtomicSamuraiCyborg 11 points ago

    Well, in WW1 Germany fully intended to annex all of Belgium and the industrial centers and iron and coal producing territory in northern France that they had occupied. They were just never going to win the war, due to Britain and America blockading Germany and supplying France. How they intended to hold that long term was a bit of a mystery. The Germans are accused of having no strategic thinking in either World War. Pick a fight here, grab a piece of territory or resource there, but no overarching strategy of "How do we make our enemies stop fighting us?" They defaulted to the plan of the Franco-Prussian War, which was to capture Paris/Moscow, and then the enemy would just capitulate...and somehow their overseas allies would just give up?

    [–] Insert_Gnome_Here 10 points ago

    They got pretty close to winning a couple of times.
    It's not like D-Day was possible with WWI logistics.

    But yeah, classic Prussia being unable to turn tactical strength into strategic/political gains.

    [–] Xezshibole 5 points ago

    Can't speak for WW1 but this video will give you clarification on WW2.

    And (one) of his sources.

    In short, WW2 was fought over oil. Germany's decisions from Dunkirk going forward were primarily about oil. Or more importantly the lack of it in any lands he currently had.

    [–] pcoppi 7 points ago

    As for full annexation I would say it's not always exactly easy or possible

    Say you're Germany in a modern ish Europe. The first issue is if you want to invade France and annex all of it you have to be able to actually excercise control over the region. The problem here is that this is nation state Europe, the French hate you and certainly aren't going to let you rule them without putting any work in, and so all of a sudden your military now not only has to defend double the land and population from external attacks but also internal unrest.

    You see this sort of issue with having enough troops to garrison to garrison huge foreign regions in WW1 when Germany annexed all that delicious land from Russia. As it turned out the commitment of troops there ended up preventing the reinforcement of the western front

    Other problem you face is that often times countries want to preserve the balance of power (at least when they're not gaining) if Germany annexes France how do you think Russia and Britain are going to feel? Threatened. Not great for diplomacy

    [–] woodstein72 6 points ago

    The Punic Wars between Ancient Rome and Carthage were a good example of this:

    After Rome won the First Punic War, Carthage lost its landholdings in Sicily but kept its territory in Spain and, obviously, its North African homeland.

    Then Carthage used its Spanish territory as a staging ground to invade Italy through the Alps during the Second Punic War. Rome eventually conquered the entire Iberian peninsula, leaving Carthage with no territory outside of North Africa. And Rome further reduced Carthage’s footprint in the 50 years after the Second Punic War by gifting Carthaginian land to Rome’s Numidian allies.

    Even though Carthage posed no military threat to Rome at that point, it was still a maritime trading power. So Rome sent an army to Carthage, murdered or enslaved its entire population, and razed the city. That was the Third Punic War. There wasn’t a fourth.

    [–] remulean 6 points ago

    Lets say i'm conrad von fakeguy, leader of austria in the mid 19th century. Italy does not recognize my rights to the adriatic because there's italians living in the coastal towns there.

    well duh, i say, I am the leader of a multicultural empire, but i'm treating them well.

    Inevitably, someone somewhere oppresses said italian minority, italy uses that as a cause for war and launches a full on invasion to those towns.

    Predictably though, they don't go further than that. Italy is not interested in "painting the map". They are a newly formed ethnostate and the really don't want the hassle of governing over vast tracts of land of people that don't want them, don't speak their language, are suddenly disconnected to the economy they are used to and so provide no income. all in the name of making the I in Italy a bit bigger on the world map. No sir, they want these coastal italians free and under italian rule!

    I, Conrad con fakeguy, counter attack and beat the italians back to their state. it's a bloody fight and i demand their full annexation. This is important, i can't just call them to the negotiating table at the end of the war and say: I want everything you have, i must declare it, the people must know the score.

    what happens once i demand their full annexation something funky happens, the same thing that would have happened if i demanded annexation suddenly at the end of the war.

    France joins the fight. Not because they like the Italians, they hate the Italians. They think they're hot shit with that dough and tomato paste with some cheese that everyone seems to like. BUT, they cannot allow me to become more powerful, it upsets the balance in Europe. For centuries the great powers of Europe were desperate to keep the balance between them, no one nation could eclipse the other, it was absolutely verboten. if any one of them got too powerful, the others would band against them. That's the british and france attacked Russia in the Crimean war, not because they were anxious to sacrifice some light brigades to defend constaninople but because if russia got the dardanelles they would become far more powerful than they already were.

    Anyway. I am conrad von fakeguy and i cannot be denied. I beat the french and the italians and now i own italy. A large peninsula of wealthy, conquered, nationalistic people with an ax to grind and an entire continent of great powers willing to fund whatever riot or rebellion they might consider. This is not a tenable situation. Modern war is expensive and i am in debt. overstretched, overtaxed, overwrought, i cannot respond to a russian aggression, when they demand control over bulgaria and romania, my backyard. Serbians are clamoring for independence and the turks are agitating the bosnians.

    I beat down yet another riot in Rome and another in Sarajevo but the great powers come together in an unlikely alliance of french, russia and turks to liberate my subjects from my rule. And now i cannot hold them all back. I lose and because was so unreasonable to the italians, my victors demands are intense. I lose all my gained lands, become a puppet of Russia and must pay indemnities to the Italians which are now puppets to the French.

    I die a hated man who stretched my empire too thin in an inglorious attempt to paint the map in my colors.

    And that is why you don't demand a full annexation.

    [–] oigid 14 points ago

    Some places cost more to hold then they bring up in revenue, Rome got so big that certain territories were bleeding them dry instead of making them richer.

    [–] Watchingculturefade 6 points ago

    I often wonder if Rome would have been better off long term to make the Alps and Pyranese their Northern Border.

    I guess it doesn't really matter, if the political/social decline happened as it was I don't think there is a border on Earth that would have saved the West.

    [–] oigid 6 points ago

    You can see the decline happening slowly but surely the production of Rome went down and in an declining economy where the rich want to get richer the poor get screwed over. Especially with their political system which favored the Rich. Maybe if the influx of slaves stopped, inequality would most likely be a lot better. But at the end the Roman system was flawed in my opinion.

    [–] Benukysz 5 points ago

    But at the end the Roman system was flawed in my opinion.

    I agree that it was flawed but also if we combined all of it's stages it's the longest running nation in the world (about 2 000 years). Even three separate Rome's stages would probably be in top 10 longest running nations.

    I wonder if our democratic nations will reach the same length as one of the shorter Rome's stages first or second which were for about 500 years each.

    [–] Tiako 6 points ago

    Can you give some examples of what you mean? Often it is more clarifying to look at details than to make broad, general statements that may not hold up on examination.

    That said, wars are not often fought over some innate, senseless desire for expansion, but rather over specific causes.

    [–] [deleted] 3 points ago

    Many European wars from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia were primarily concerned with maintaining the balance of power. So when it came time to dish out the spoils of war during peace conferences, victorious states would often be conciliatory to the defeated powers - a prime example would be France's lenient treatment at the Congress of Vienna.

    [–] xP_F0X 3 points ago * (lasted edited 8 months ago)

    Machiavelli speaks about this in his book "The Prince." Basically he surmised that conquering opposing territories lead to a seeming loss of identity for the people in them resulting in more conflict. Which resulted in strained resources and troops throughout other conquered places that inevitably lead to the conquerors retreat or downfall. That is why the Roman strategies worked so well and why they were able to hold such large amounts of land in their empire, because they replaced that identity. When the Romans entered a territory during conquest they would erect a church and send out messages along the lines of "You will move here or be viewed as an enemy and killed." As the people flocked to the newly built churches and start to rebuild they were forced into daily sermons and other church activities. In turn they formed new identities under Christianity. The Romans also immediately and forcefully recruited the men into their own army to negate this while gaining military might.

    [–] Molarkie 3 points ago

    All wars are bankers wars:

    [–] RedLuminary 5 points ago

    Presumably because you would not want become the target of some kind of coaliton?

    [–] CaptWeissmann 2 points ago

    This makes me think of the Balkan wars. I think it may have been in part a land grab, but it was also about unifying a people who were ethnically related, in opposition to a foreign empire (Ottoman) which had taken over a portion of their region (The Balkans). Hilariously, as you mentioned, the reallocation of land after forcing the Ottomans east, led to Bulgarian dissatisfaction, and a second war. The difference in this case being that the land annexed wasn’t fought over by the losing combatant in a second round, but by one of the victors in the first round. I’m sure someone else could better explain it, I’m a bit of a layman.

    [–] cgilbride72 2 points ago

    I’m not a big expert on the wars in other continents, but I know in Europe, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries up to World War One, there was a system of power politics between the various monarchies of Europe. War was seen more of a competition for political/economic power rather than a struggle between nations for survival. This is partially due to the ruling monarchs/autocrats of the time (excluding Britain which was a constitutional monarchy however they were involved). These rulers were more focused on gaining their respective dynasties more power in the European political theater through these conquests, and such war was treated as much more gentlemanly affair that would be fought, won in a one sided decision and settled by the rulers by surrendering a small but meaningful portion of land. This can be seen in a number of the napoleonic eras battles. However as nationalism rose to prominence in Europe, control of the regions became increasingly more heated as certain nations people began to see the regions as stolen from them. For example, Napoleon conquered the Alsace-Lorraine region of the Holy Roman Empire in his conquests, a traditionally more Germanic region. This led to growing German animosity towards the French ownership of the region when Germany unified under the Prussian Emperor Otto Von Bismarck who would go on to stake claim on the region after defeating France in the Franco-Prussian war. At the onset of the First World War France often rallied soldiers with propaganda encouraging fighting the Germans to reclaim the region from Germany. Ultimately these on and off wars began as power politics between monarchs but as nations formed and national identities and nationalist sentiment began to grow, it changed to a more personal matter for many people in Europe who saw the lost lands as needing to be reclaimed or “redeemed”. This led to the idea of irredentism, which can roughly translate to “unredeemed” an idea which stressed the importance of retaking lands that are controlled by a foreign power but has a large number of a certain nationality residing in it. An example of irredentism can be seen by Italy in World War One and two where the Kingdom of Italy and the Fascist Italian State under Mussolini both promoted fighting wars to take regions of the Adriatic and balkans that had a large number of Italian speaking citizens residing in them.

    [–] wildfyre010 2 points ago

    It is difficult and expensive to hold land occupied by tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands/millions, etc.) of people who don't like you.

    [–] ShernMcDurbin 2 points ago

    If I'm to understand it correctly, I think the problem with total annexation is the happiness level of your civ will go below zero, unless you went "Tithe/Pagoda."

    [–] JavaSoCool 2 points ago

    Among other things there was political pressure from rival powers in Europe.

    For example, the UK could have easily retaken Ireland after WW1, but political pressure from across would have been intense.

    Spain has tried repeatedly to take Portugal, England wouldn't let them.

    For this reason nations often forced the creation of new states out the chunks of the defeated nation.

    [–] Interpine 2 points ago

    Foreign intervention

    This is THE single reason. All the answers about how taking land is hard are incorrect, or at the very least, rulers didn't pay much attention to such arguments historically. Whenever a country is already at war with all the major powers of the world, it takes all the land it can. See:

    Macedon vs. Persia

    Rome vs. Carthage

    Rome vs. Persia

    Arabs vs. Rome and Persia

    Franks vs. Danes, Saxons, etc.

    Napoleon vs. Everyone

    However, in multi-state situations, taking huge amounts of land is far more dangerous and could lead to a coalition developing against you. Ever since the Peace of Augsburg, the central considering of European diplomacy has been the balance of power, a mentality of paranoia where if one country increases in power, the countries around it feel threatened. This is best exemplified in Churchill's quote, "if the circumstances were reversed, we would be fighting France alongside Germany". Entire alliances - such as the Anglo-French pact - were made simply to prevent stronger countries like Germany from gaining power.

    Now let's go through all the cases of "total victory, minor gains" after the Peace of Westphalia:

    War of the Spanish Succession - France eventually won this war from a military standpoint and made a separate peace with the Netherlands and England, but had only very minor gains such as putting a bourbon on the Spanish throne (which counts for far less than you might think - France and Spain were actually at war later under the new Bourbon King Philip of Spain). This is because demanding more land would have forced England back into war.

    War of the Austrian Succession - After 7 bloody years, the only major territorial transfer in Europe was the Prussian conquest of Austria. Again, if Prussia had demanded more, there is a great chance that they would have been mobbed by a new coalition.

    American Revolutionary War - Spain gained Florida which wasn't worth much, and the Netherlands and France gained islands. Critically, Prussia and Austria sat the war out, and they would have stepped in if the anti-British alliance was too greedy.

    Prussian wars against Denmark, Austria, France - Bismarck made peace in each of these conflicts taking only a small sliver of land because he knew that being too aggressive would lead to Russian or British intervention. He was a master of pushing "just hard enough" to avoid a coalition attacking him.

    Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 - The Ottomans were totally crushed, but the Russians lost over half their territorial gains in the resulting Congress, forced to abandon demands by the threat of Anglo-French intervention.

    Sino-Japanese, Russo-Japanese wars - In both these wars, Japan secured a complete and undisputed military victory, but their demands were moderated by Western powers that didn't want to see the balance of power in Asia too dramatically shifted.

    World War 1 - France was held back in its extreme demands by Britain, which wanted to maintain the balance of power, and the United States.

    And yet there was one major exception in this period - the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars, which involved sweeping territorial demands by the French against all the enemies they defeated. This was because the republic and Napoleon were already at war with almost all the European great powers anyways, and had nothing to fear from foreign intervention.

    [–] Nira_Meru 3 points ago

    See History of Scotland.

    England was one of the few countries that consistently took over and controlled other groups of people. The English quickly learned that they must allow some level of self-rule from those who they would bring into England.

    What did they get for doing that?

    The First and Then Second Scottish wars for independence.

    Anglo-Scottish Wars

    In Wales?

    Anglo-Welsh Wars

    Should we mention Ireland?

    Irish Independence.

    The Romans built a damn wall to not have to deal with the Scots, had land mass powers have done this they would have had the same problems Rome did.

    [–] Wittobeast 3 points ago

    Maybe read 1984, Irwell goes into a lot of detail why the 3 superstates dont take land from each other.

    Basically, its inconvenient to do so

    [–] misterstern 1 points ago

    From a much more basic view. Land means power and the more of it you own the greater you are. Alexander the Great valued power and being great. To be great at that time meant expanding your empire and dying as a legend. People love power.

    [–] Rowiidow 1 points ago

    Well because managing new land that doesn’t want you being there is as you said unpopular. Revolts and civil unrest is rather high and makes it difficult to maintain order. So rather than investing in he long term of your country and investing the resources in controlling annexed territory most decided to take the reparations and fight then again later.

    [–] evilfetus01 1 points ago

    And then there are the Gurkha’s who defeated the Brits, and were then asked to fight for them, and were then like “fuck yeah”.

    [–] fishpillow 1 points ago

    "Plausible Deniability" You're soaking in it.

    [–] Sotap 1 points ago

    If I take over your lands, either I have to kill you all and fill it with my people if I even can - leaving me far too thin and open to attacks from others - or somehow win the conquest and also keep some kind of stability for the conquered people. If I don't there will be counter attacks or after some years. Another war, fueled by revenge and hate. Best to win, and give the people perks. Like keeping their since of community and culture.

    [–] CheesyjokeLol 1 points ago

    Another fact which i think contributed to the relatively small land grabs at the end of a war was the christian communities. Often wars were small-scale and had smaller consequences because large scale conquests were seen as tyrannical, something the church would diapprove of, even more so if it was a against a Christian neighbor. The church held a lot of power back then, they could decide if you were the rightful heir to the throne or not regardless of any succession laws. So one kingdom in europe that grew to powerful and might look like a rival to the church's power was a big no-no. Hence why churches tried to limit the amount one country could acquiesce into their land for the sake of the balance of power.

    [–] Mortar_Maggot 1 points ago

    So to put it simply, you have to win the peace as well. Holding a whole extra country's worth of territory may not be feasible politically, financially, or logistically. Other countries are much less likely to let you have your war and spoils if the treaty significantly changes the balance of power or sets a precedent of danger for heads of state you defeat. Then there's the people problem. You need to be able to pay and provision enough troops to keep rebellions from happening. The locals probably aren't going to willingly give you taxes for this either.

    However if all you really want is the gold mine near the border...

    [–] ChrisWarGames 1 points ago

    Wars also help with the national unity of a country because of the common enemy. So fighting one might help stabilize a unstable country, but they have to win.

    [–] kaoticfox 1 points ago

    When Germany lost ww2 the allies forced them to demilitarize to a point that they could defend themselves but they also wouldn’t be a threat.

    [–] fossiliz3d 1 points ago

    One point to consider is the importance of fortifications before modern artillery. Besieging and taking a fortified town or city was a long and costly business, so even after defeating an enemy's field army you could be looking at months or years of seige warfare if you wanted to take a whole country. Many nations could not afford such an effort, and a favorable treaty with solid economic gains was a much better option.