HISTORY HAS WITNESSED hundreds of civil wars, at least two “world wars” and more than 40 distinct wars of independence. Other conflicts have been named for kings, queens, dogs, pigs, flagpoles, ears, pastries, and in one case an oak bucket. Then there are the wars that were named for the year in which they were fought, and others (as we are about to see) that are referred to by their duration.
The lengthiest war on record, known as Three Hundred and Thirty Five-Year War, was an entirely bloodless contest between Holland and England’s Isles of Scilly. How bloodless, you ask? Well, not a single shot was fired after the initial declaration of war was announced in 1651 and within weeks, both sides promptly forgot that a state of hostilities even existed. The Dutch initiated the conflict after Royalist privateers based on the tiny islands off Cornwall refused to compensate the Netherlands for damage done to that nation’s shipping during the English Civil War. It wasn’t until the 20th century that a British historian stumbled across some old documents that showed an unsettled state of war between England and Holland existed. No one was more shocked by the revelation than the Dutch. A treaty was signed in 1986.
The famous Hundred Years War wasn’t just one conflict but a series of intermittent confrontations between England and France beginning in 1337. The war, which was fought by such figures as Henry V, Joan of Arc and Edward the Black Prince ended with a French victory at the Battle of Castillon in 1453. While technically 116 years in length, historians have rounded the figure down to the nearest century for everyone’s convenience.
The Eighty Years War on the other hand was precisely eight decades long. The war, which saw the Netherlands struggle to break free from Spanish rule, erupted in 1568. It wasn’t non-stop fisticuffs however for the full duration. Both sides enjoyed a 12-year breather beginning in 1609 in which King Phillip III broke off the engagement to tamp down sectarian strife at home. War resumed again with a vengeance however in 1621 as a sideshow to the much larger European Thirty Years War. This larger fight pitted an alliance of predominantly Catholic states, including Spain against a confederation of Protestant territories of which the Netherlands was a part.
One of most destructive wars in history, the bloody Thirty Years War raged between 1618 and 1648. It was fought from the banks of the River Vistula all they way to the West Indies. By the time it was over, 8 million soldiers and civilians would be dead and the map of Europe would be permanently redrawn. Many have made the case that the Thirty Years War could correctly be called the first ‘world war’.
Prussia and Poland teamed up to wipe out the Teutonic order in the Thirteen Years War (1454 to 1466) while the Nine Years War (1688 to 1697) pitted the then world superpower France against the so-called Grand Alliance, which consisted of England, Holland, Spain, Sweden, the Holy Roman Empire and others. Fought primarily in Europe, but also North America, the Caribbean and the Far East, the conflict has also been referred to as a ‘world war’.
There was not one, but several different Seven Years Wars. The most famous of them was fought between an Anglo-Prussian coalition against France, Austria, Spain, Russia and Sweden. Another global conflict, the war saw vast armies clash on battlefields in the Americas, India, Africa and Central Europe. The lesser-known Northern Seven Years War was waged in the 16th Century between Sweden and Denmark-Norway with help from Poland amid the dissolution of a historic Scandinavian confederation known as the Kalmar Union. It lasted from 1563 to 1570 and ended in a stalemate. And just to muddy the waters further, the 16th Century Japanese Invasion of Korea is sometimes known as… you guessed it, the Seven Years War, as is a sideshow struggle of the Napoleonic War fought by Britain against Denmark that ran between 1807 and 1814.
A number of wars aren’t measured in years, but rather days. Such was the case with the 30-year war in Vietnam, which has been referred to by some as the Ten Thousand Day War. A three-year civil war in Columbia that lasted from 1899 to 1902 is sometimes called the Thousand Days War. Fought between progressive reformers and conservative forces, the conflict was largely inconclusive and set the stage for more ideological clashes in Columbia during the 20th Century.
The 1978 Hundred Days War came amid the wider five-year long Lebanese Civil War (1977 to 1982). Fought between Lebanese militias and a Syrian dominated Arab intervention force in war-torn Beirut, the conflict resulted in Damascus’ withdrawal from East Lebanon. Bonaparte’s famous Hundred Days, was the last chapter of the Napoleonic Wars. It kicked off in the spring of 1815 when the deposed French emperor escaped confinement on Elba, marched on Paris and reclaimed the throne. England, Prussia, Austria and more than a dozen other European powers allied against the Corsican conqueror who eagerly marched out to crush his old enemies. Napoleon was finally brought down at the Battle of Waterloo by a combined Anglo-Prussian army. While not a war, but rather a war-ending campaign, the Canadian Corps in France during the First World War launched the famous Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front in August of 1918. The epic assault saw a force of 100,000 Allied troops push the Germans back to Mons, the city the Kaiser’s forces famously took from the British in the summer of 1914.
And let’s not forget the Six Day War between Israel and the combined forces of Syria, Jordan and Egypt fought in June of 1967.
The Hundred Hours War is another name given to the 1969 Football War fought between Honduras and El Salvador. The conflict, which stemmed from long standing regional tensions, was touched off amid contentious World Cup qualifying matches between the two estranged neighbours. The Hundred Hour War is also the name for the long-awaited ground offensive in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein promised the world the Mother of All Battles. Instead, his army, which had been hammered by coalition planes for five weeks straight, folded in less than four days of ground action.
Then there was Britain’s 1898 war against the east African kingdom of Zanzibar. It’s sometimes referred to as the 38-Minute War because it was declared, fought and won in under three-quarters of an hour. It’s the shortest war in history.