Proposal preview

Re-evaluating the Pre-industrial European Warfare State

Philip T. Hoffman’s new book, Why Did Europe Conquer the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015) has challenged pre-existing notions as to why Europe became so dominant economically and military in the last 500 years or so. He posits that the answer can be found in a model of tournaments, i.e. that the constant military and economic competition for domination in Europe, in conjunction with other cultural and historical developments, explain Europe’s global success. The key to Hoffman’s explanation are near constant warfare and the fact that sovereigns consistently spent large portions of their budgets on war. His model links the high probability that European rulers would go to war to the high value of the victor’s prize, similarity of resources, military technology, and ability to mobilize those resources (absence of a hegemon is crucial). Therefore, Hoffman’s four conditions for Europeans’ path toward global dominance include frequent war, high (and consistent) military spending, adoption and advancement of gunpowder technology, and relative lack of obstacles to military innovations. According to him, Europeans enjoyed low fixed costs for going to war, distances were small, variable costs for mobilization were low, and there was a merchant base that helped with the financing of conflicts.
In this session we wish to examine how the Hoffman model holds up in broader comparisons of, first, European states and, second, other polities around the world in the medieval and early modern period. We are also interested in how central and local government’s financial and administrative systems managed to fund and organize effective warfare and how a fiscally fragmented public sector developed towards a more centralized one during this transformation period. We aim to bring together leading scholars from around the globe focusing on military spending and fiscal changes in this period. Moreover, our goal is to initiate a broader discussion of Hoffman’s theoretical and empirical findings and their relation to earlier interpretations and historical models.


  • Jari A Eloranta, Appalachian State University,, USA
  • Philip T Hoffman, Caltech,, USA
  • Dan Bogart, UC-Irvine,, USA
  • Marjolein t'Hart, University of Amsterdam,, Netherlands
  • Mauricio Drelichman, University of British Columbia,, Canada
  • Matti Hannikainen, University of Tampere,, Finland
  • Cristina Moreira, University of Minho,, Portugal
  • Rodrigo Costa Dominguez, University of Minho and University of Porto,, Portugal

Session members

  • Petri Karonen, University of Jyvaskyla,
  • Miikka Voutilainen, University of Jyvaskyla,
  • R. Bin Wong, UCLA,
  • Angelo Alves Carrara, University of Juiz de Fora,
  • Ernest Sanchez Santiró, Instituto Mora, Mexico,
  • Luis Jáuregui, Instituto Mora, Mexico,
  • Rafael Torres Sánchez, University of Navarra,
  • Cristina Moreira, University of Minho,
  • Metin Cosgel, University of Connecticut,
  • William Guanglin Li, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,,
  • David Stasavage, New York University,
  • Pavel Osinsky, Appalachian State University,
  • Vincent Geloso, London School of Economics and Political Science,
  • John Lovett, Texas Christian University,
  • Pepijn Brandon, University of Amsterdam,
  • Patrick O'Brien, Oxford University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Dan Bogart, UC-Irvine,
  • Mauricio Drelichman, University of British Columbia,