The First World War...or Was It?

Feb 2019
804
Serbia
#14
I'm not sure, but I think there is believed to be a distinction between a world-spanning conflict - where conflict is fought across the globe - and world war - where you have nations from all over the globe fighting it. So depending on definition, wars you have listed would not count because they were - despite their global nature - still fundamentally conflicts between European powers. Meanwhile in WWI you had Japan and USA siding with Entente, and in WWII you had US, Australia, Canada, China with Allies and Japan with the Axis.
In the 7 Years' War, as mentioned above, it involved powers that weren't just European such as the native American tribes. The Napoleonic Wars included the USA, (War of 1812.) Persia via the Russo-Persian Wars. Ottomans due to Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition and the Russo-Turkish War. Egypt. The Maghreb Nations traded with both Britain and France, serving as a source of supply for the British Mediterranean fleet. Britain also issued a declaration of war on Tunis in 1795 due to this trading. Then there were colonial campaigns, independence movements in the Americas, Neutral trading nations etc. So the Napoleonic Wars were between far more than just European powers and their colonies.

I think the main distinction is the fact this was total war. The entire industrial capacity of a nation was used to arm, train and fight the war.
While it is true that the World Wars proper used up more resources and capacity than anything that came before, there are some cases of ''total war'' in the Napoleonic Wars as well. This is the conflict that first saw the usage of mass mobilisation, Britain for example formed a large militia army and also mobilised many of its human and material resources for war. They took every opportunity to undermine Napoleon and even went so far in their commitment that they did things such as attacking neutral nations such as Denmark in 1807. They took everything they could get to fight the war and later survive Napoleon's blockade. In the Peninsular War, with the guerilla war and the very population of Spain being directly involved in the conflict everything was involved in the conflict to some degree with many...unconventional methods of war being used. So it can be said that the Napoleonic Wars were to some degree a ''total war'' as well, nowhere near the scale of WWI or II but still.
 
Likes: Picard
Dec 2015
510
Middle East
#15
Why are these wars called "world" wars anyway? The West started those wars and they should take the blame. Why is the entire world made to look bad for something the rest of the world had absolutely no responsibility for? These should be called by their right names First Western War and Second Western War. Or actually more correctly and as implied by the OP the Millionth Western War.
 
Mar 2018
751
UK
#16
Why are these wars called "world" wars anyway? The West started those wars and they should take the blame. Why is the entire world made to look bad for something the rest of the world had absolutely no responsibility for? These should be called by their right names First Western War and Second Western War. Or actually more correctly and as implied by the OP the Millionth Western War.
Ah yes, Japan, that famous western nation... If you feel like the name WW2 is imparting blame on you (or your country) personally, then the problem is in your inane reaction to the name rather than the name itself.

As for the OP, the naming of wars is always rather arbitrary and depends on what sticks at the time or shortly after. I wouldn't look for any logic or meaning in it. I doubt that the 7 years war was the first war to last 7 years. Neither the 100 years war nor the 80 years war lasted precisely that long. I've also heard it argued that Alexander's conquest should be called a world war because - to the parties involved - almost the entire world was indeed at war. Frankly, the names of war is just a convenient shorthand so that everyone involved in a discussion knows what is being referred to without having to use something obscene like "The conflict from 1939 to 1945 that was principally fought by the allied and axis nations".
 
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Likes: Spike117
Mar 2019
106
Victoria, Australia
#20
When World War 1 broke out, it was known as "the great war" or the "war to end all wars" and the likes. They didn't call it "World War 1" since they didn't know about "World War 2" yet.

Anyway, I think personally the term "World War" refers to the implication of most superpowers and great powers in the world, and active in at least three or four different continents. For this purpose I usually consider China as a separate continent due to the vastness of the territory and that it had typically been ruled by some unified (or unifying) nation for most of its history.

By that category, Most wars of the XVIII century certainly fall in this category. The Napoleonic wars not so much, since these where almost purely euro-centric or restricted to one theatre/area each.

Arguably I'd say that a lot of the wars in the XVII century certainly was "world war" material.