Civilians Chapter uri icon


  • The concept of the civilian in wartime as a legal category is fairly new, but the problem is far older. Noncombatants have been a target of organized violence throughout history, with records of mass killing and the systematic destruction of infrastructure dating to the earliest written descriptions of armed conflict. In medieval and early modern warfare, noncombatants were targets of military violence as well as crucial to the supply and operation of armies. The relationship among civilians, military conflict, and the state began to change with the creation of national states after the revolutionary wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This process accelerated dramatically during the one hundred years that followed the middle of the 19th century, an age characterized by the rise of total war. The boundaries that separated civilians from soldiers, combatants from noncombatants, and frontline from home front blurred and sometimes all but vanished. A host of reasons account for this, including technological advances that extended combat far into the enemys rear area, mass mobilization, the close relationship between war and industrial production, and totalizing ideologies that sanctioned violence against civilians. At the same time, the early 20th century also saw systematic international efforts to protect noncombatants in wartime and to legally classify them as civilians. The period since the end of World War II has witnessed an international effort to formally define and shield civilians from state-sanctioned violence and targeting by nonstate actors. Global events since the fall of Communism have not been particularly encouraging in this regard. This bibliography intends to introduce readers to major works that examine this problem throughout history, with a particular focus on the period from 1800 to 2000. It will also provide guidance for those seeking to learn more about specific aspects of the civilian experience of war, such as strategic bombing, international humanitarian law, and genocide.

author list (cited authors)

  • Seipp, A. R.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Seipp, Adam R

Book Title

  • Oxford Bibliographies

publication date

  • February 2012