Conquest (military)

For other uses, see Conquest.

Conquest involves the act of military subjugation of an enemy by force of arms.[1][2] The Norman conquest of England provides an example: it led to the subjugation of the Kingdom of England to Norman control and brought William the Conqueror to the English throne in 1066. Military history provides many other examples of conquest: the Roman conquest of Britain, the Mauryan conquest of Afghanistan and of the entire Indian subcontinent, the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and various Muslim conquests, to mention just a few.

Ancient conquests

The ancient civilized peoples conducted wars on a large scale that were, in effect, conquests.[3] In Egypt the effects of invasion and conquest are to be seen in different racial types represented in paintings and sculptures.[4]

Improved agriculture production was not conducive to peace, it allowed for specialization including the formation of ever larger militaries and improved weapon technology. This combined with growth of population and political control, war became more widespread and destructive.[5] Thus, the Aztecs, Incas, African Kingdoms Dahomey and Benin and the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria and Persia all stand out as more militaristic than the less civilized tribes about them. Military adventures were on a larger scale and effective conquest now for the first time became feasible.

Conquest and plunder

Plunder has in all times and places been a result of war, the conquerors taking whatever things of value they find. The desire for it has been one of the commonest causes of war and conquest.[6]


With subjugation, further class distinctions arise. The conquered people are enslaved; thus the widest possible social classes are produced: the enslaved and the free. The slaves are put to work to support the upper classes, who regard war as their chief business. [7] The state is in origin a product of war and exists primarily as an enforced peace between conquerors and conquered.[8] From slavery and from conquest, another result of war, sprang differentiation of classes and occupations termed the division of labour.[9] Through conquest, society became divided into a ruling militant class and a subject industrial class. The regulative function devolved upon the conquering soldiers and operations side to the serfs and slaves.

Conquest and the state

In the formation of the modern state, the conspicuous immediate causes are the closely related facts of migration and conquest.[10] The state has increased civilization and allowed increased cultural contact allowing for a cultural exchange and stimulus; frequently the conquerors have taken over the culture of their subjects.[11]

Conquest leading to migration

Military conquest has been one of the most persistent causes of human migrations.[12] There is a significant influence of migration and conquest on political development and state formation. Conquest leading to migration has contributed to race mixture and cultural exchange. The latter points influence on conquest has been of far greater significance in the evolution of society. Conquest brings humans into contact, even though it is a hostile contact.

Culture after conquest

After a conquest where a minority imposes itself on a majority, it usually adopts the language and religion of the majority, through this force of numbers and because a strong government can be maintained only through the unity of these two important facts.[13] In other cases, especially when the conquerors create or maintain strong cultural or social institutions, the conquered culture could adopt norms or ideas from the conquering culture to expedite interactions with the new ruling class. These changes were often imposed on the conquered people by force, particularly during religiously motivated conquests.

Methods of conquest

The Ottomans used a method of gradual, non-military conquest in which they established suzerainty over their neighbours and then displaced their ruling dynasties. This concept was first systematized by Halil İnalcık.[14] Conquests of this sort did not involve violent revolution but were a process of slow assimilation, established by bureaucratic means such as registers of population and resources as part of the feudal timar system.[15]


  1. Miquelon, Dale. 1977. Society and Conquest. ISBN 0-7730-3132-4
  2. Day, David. 2008. Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others. ISBN 0-19-923934-7
  3. Cambridge Ancient History. Vol I pg. 261, 519; Vol III, 99, 100-101 ISBN 0-521-85073-8
  4. Petrie, W. Races of Early Egypt. JAI XXX, 103.
  5. Sumner, W. 1914. War Pg. 3.
  6. Spencer, H. 1969. Principles of Sociology I . pg. 631. ISBN 0-208-00849-7
  7. Gumplowicz, L. 1909. Der Rassenkampf pg. 163-175, 179-181, 219-238, 250-259
  8. Keller, G. 1902. Homeric society pg. 248
  9. Nieboer, H. 1900. Slavery as an industrial system.
  10. Jenks, E. 1919. The State and the Nation. pg. 121, 133, 152
  11. Wissler, C. 1923. Man and Culture. pg 42, 179.
  12. Howitt, A. 1910. Native Tribes. pg. 185-186, 678, 682-683
  13. Smyth, R. 1878. The Aborigines of Victoria. Vol I. pg. 181
  14. Pál Fodor (2000), In quest of the golden apple: imperial ideology, politics, and military administration in the Ottoman Empire, p. 111
  15. Halil Inalcik (1954), Ottoman Methods of Conquest, JSTOR 1595144

See also

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