The Economic History of War and Defense

Authored by: Jari Eloranta

Routledge Handbook of Modern Economic History

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415677042
eBook ISBN: 9780203075616
Adobe ISBN: 9781135121211


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The modern period, beginning more or less with the French Revolution in 1789, 1 was marked by pivotal changes in the power relations among nations, the financing of wars, and the actual practices of warfare. European nations had already amassed great empires prior to that, but the real culmination of their ascendancy occurred in the nineteenth century, particularly for Great Britain. The nineteenth century also featured the rapid advance of industrialization, mostly in the West, which enabled Western European powers to create military machines of unparalleled proportions. The naval supremacy of the West was proven beyond doubt during the opening of China’s and Japan’s markets in the mid-nineteenth century. The age of total war that began in the modern sense with the French Revolution and Napoleon pushed European states to adopt increasingly efficient fiscal systems in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and enabled some of them to dedicate more than half of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the war effort during the world wars. Whereas, in the pre-modern world, military spending was typically the dominant item for state budgets, thrusting the most eager rulers and nations toward default, industrialized nations developed more efficient budgeting systems to cope with the threat and execution of wars.

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