Military forces often relied on civilians to fulfill labor and support demands, obtaining weapons, food, and other essential items to enable combat troops to focus on warfare.
Military forces often relied on civilians to fulfill labor and support demands, obtaining weapons, food, and other essential items to enable combat troops to focus on warfare. Civilian laborers built and reinforced structures to help troops withstand enemy assaults and prepare offensive maneuvers. Civilian workers represented both voluntary employees and people forced into labor. In the early twenty-first century, many historians analyzed how occupation forces had coerced or overpowered ethnic groups to perform work to achieve military goals. Some scholars evaluated how gender and race affected civilians seeking wartime employment. Economic and political historians considered civilian laborers’ impact on industrial production and legislation during wars.
Civilian laborers frequently filled manpower shortages at businesses and factories when peacetime workers left for military service. Civilians’ work mostly ensured ample production of items, especially weaponry, crucial to military successes. However, fluctuations in civilians’ work ethic and inconsistent supplies of laborers impacted the quantity and quality of the military equipment civilian workers manufactured. Some civilian specialists, such as blacksmiths or mechanics (depending on the era in which warfare occurred), applied their professional skills to benefit military troops. Sometimes civilians forced to work for occupying forces sabotaged projects assigned them, hindering enemy troops’ effectiveness. Civilian laborers also completed reconstruction work to restore areas damaged by warfare.
Many aspects of civilian labor associated with warfare have been universal in different eras. Throughout the history of warfare, civilian laborers supplemented military endeavors in what often became a symbiotic relationship. Military forces relied on civilians to accomplish necessary support services that enabled troops to concentrate on their orders and not be distracted by time-consuming activities such as securing food. Civilians usually wanted military forces to protect them from enemies during wars. Civilian labor varied from formal, organized systems monitored and financed by governments and military leaders to assistance offered spontaneously when citizens encountered military troops in need of supplies and support.
Incentives for voluntary civilian laborers included patriotism and a sense of duty to their leaders or country. Most workers welcomed the opportunity to help relatives, friends, and neighbors fighting in wars by manufacturing war materials useful to military forces. Warfare offered many civilians income sources to support their families. Wartime civilian workers faced risks and suffered injuries and casualties both in home-front industries and during battlefield assignments. Civilian laborers sometimes became prisoners of war or slaves, depending on the era and conqueror when they lived. After warfare concluded, some civilian laborers retained work similar to their wartime employment, while others became unemployed when veterans returned home.
Power struggles between leaders of ancient civilizations often provoked military conflicts. Histories of ancient warfare, some of them written by those who were contemporary with the events–including Homer, Thucydides, and Plutarch–and biblical passages described activities of warriors defending their communities or engaging in offensive maneuvers to seize land from rivals. Most accounts omitted details concerning individuals performing labor to assist troops, but generalizations about civilian workers suggested how they participated in warfare.
When soldiers traveled to pursue military objectives, their community, including family members and skilled craftspersons and artisans, often followed them. The civilian laborers accompanying Macedonian leader
Various ancient civilizations’ military leaders, particularly those of the Romans and Egyptians, benefited from civilian laborers performing noncombat tasks similar to those provided to Alexander and his soldiers. Many of the roles played by ancient civilian laborers during warfare, including civilians working as spies to obtain military intelligence, continued to be fundamental to military forces in other eras.
Advances in military organization and weapons technology affected medieval civilian laborers impacted by warfare, who engaged in work resembling that of their ancient counterparts. In
In medieval Europe, monarchs urged civilians to increase
From the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, civilian laborers accompanied Crusaders traveling to the Holy Land. By the fourteenth century,
Warfare waged by the Turkic leader
Civilian laborers affiliated with modern warfare experienced more rigid bureaucracy, but women and racial minorities were offered increased opportunities.
World War II
In the twenty-first century, civilian laborers, representing native and international workers–many of them contractors–contributed to work related to the Iraq War. These civilians helped troops by serving in such diverse roles as translators, drivers, and bodyguards. Few civilians expressed interest in performing work associated with warfare in Afghanistan, and as a result, U.S. government officials in the spring of 2009 considered assigning military reservists to those jobs, because they had regularly practiced expertise the military needed, such as engineering, in their civilian employment.
Chamberlain, Charles D. Victory at Home: Manpower and Race in the American South During World War II. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003. Discusses minority civilian laborers’ experiences while working in wartime industries, addressing economic, political, cultural, and labor issues. Kagan, Frederick. “The Evacuation of Soviet Industry in the Wake of ‘Barbarossa’: A Key to the Soviet Victory.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 8 (June, 1995): 387-414. This detailed account notes that historical texts often contain ideologically biased interpretations of the event, stressing that historians should consult primary sources when researching this topic. Kern, Paul Bentley. Ancient Siege Warfare. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. Comprehensive study of numerous civilizations that incorporates information about civilian laborers based on biblical references and contemporary historians’ descriptions. Kratoska, Paul H., ed. Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empires: Unknown Histories. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 2005. A collection of essays examining twentieth century uses of civilian labor. States that historians rely on oral and archival records to chronicle these frequently overlooked workers. Nicolle, David. The Age of Tamerlane. Illustrated by Angus McBride. Men-at-Arms Series 222. New York: Osprey, 2003. Refers to civilian laborers who manufactured weaponry and armor. Illustrations depict weapons and protective garments. Zeiger, Susan. In Uncle Sam’s Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Force, 1917-1919. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. Analyzes motivations for women to work for military forces and how those jobs presented them with both autonomy and restrictions.
Education, Textbooks, and War
The Press and War
Revolt, Rebellion, and Insurgency
War’s Impact on Economies
Women, Children, and War