Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Warfare, economy, and state formation
When historians write about warfare and economy they usually discuss economic causes of war, economic consequences of war, and the importance of economic resources to wage wars. In a medieval and early-modern context, economic forces behind warfare are normally conflicts about trade and colonies. Conflicts between states and the relations between state and society in Europe are themes for political history or historical sociology. Economists and economic historians have normally not been interested in warfare, except its destructive consequences and financial impact on states and societies. Recently, economic historians have become interested in early-modern war finance and state formation, but the military and naval organisations are seldom parts of economic studies.
This lack of interest in military affairs probably has its origin in the fact that economic historians have seen the state and its organisations as central to political history. State formation and war are also central problems for sociologists and political scientists, but they lack the theoretical tools to analyse efficient use of resources. Economics is the social science that is focused on how societies utilise scarce resources, and on causes for economic growth and stagnation. Continuity and change in warfare and organisation of states are important parts of how society utilises resources. As resources are essential in warfare, discussions about war, state, and society require some understanding of concepts used by economists, not as an alternative to political science or sociology but in order to provide balanced explanations.