Naming something changes the way we perceive it. A good name can make something bad seem better.
I have often wondered, why the 1914-18 war was called a “world war”. It was not really a world war. Because England had colonies throughout the world, and the peole of the colonies got drawn in, it seem like a world war, but all the action was in Europe. It only spilled over into Asia and Europe, because the Ottoman empire was bullied into joining, but even in those places the fighting was between European powers.
The 1914-18 war was a war between European Empires. It was a war between Christian empires. Maybe calling it a world war, distracts from the fact that it was a Christian and European event.
Maybe it would be more honest to call it the European War, or a Christian European War. Of course it was not the first European War. Europe had be enveloped in war before.
The Napoleonic wars drew in all the Christian powers of Europe: France, Spain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, or their predecessor’s. The war extended from 1789 to 1815. About a million French soldiers became casualties (wounded, invalided or killed), a higher proportion than in the First World War. The European total may have reached 5,000,000 military deaths, including disease.
But this was not the first European War either. The Thirty Years was another European war in which all the great powers of Europe participated. France, Germany, Spain England, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland engaged in one of the longest, most destructive conflicts in European history.
Initially a war between Protestant and Catholic states, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe. It became less about religion and more a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.
So we could label the wars of Europe this way.
- First European War (1618 to 1648)
- Second European War (1789 to 1815)
- Third European War (1914-18)
- Fourth European War (1939-1945)