What was the longest war?A student asked me this today. I realized I didn't know the answer, and that there are probably ponts of contention here.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You know the first thing that popped into this literature teacher's mind?  The Crusades!  (Note how it's this "literature" teacher, i.e. not history, as the main factor here. Ha!)  Yeah, I know, ... it's controversial.  Is it really a "war"?  Could it even be called a "series of wars"?  And being fought between 1095-1291 (about 200 years), it doesn't even beat (in length) bullgatortail's idea of The Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Years War between Holland and the Isles of Scilly.  However, the length of the crusades does beat out many of our modern-day wars in regards to length, anyway.  Of course, it was significant in that Europe wanted to bring the Holy Land back under Christian control by recapturing Jerusalem.  So, take it for what it's worth.  And by the way, ... VERY interesting discussion!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are several possibilities:

  • The Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Years War between Holland and the Isles of Scilly lasted for 335 years--without a shot being fired. It was considered a war because no peace treaty was signed during those years. Peace was declared in 1986.
  • Most historians agree that the Hundred Years War pitting England and France was the longest. It actually lasted 116 years (1337-1453). Several of Shakespeare's plays describe the action.
  • The longest war in U.S. history is now the current Afghan war against the Taliban.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a tough one since it's hard to define what constitutes one war and what constitutes a series of wars.  I'd say that the longest war that is typically seen as one war was the Hundred Years War.  This was a series of related conflicts that lasted 116 years from 1337 to 1453 for control of the French throne.  Within that time, there were periods of peace, but even the times of active war add up to somewhere around 80 years.  So I'd go with this as the longest war.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, this is a rather difficult question to answer precisely. Certainly, the Hundred Years War is impressive in terms of its longevity and the way that a state of war was maintained for that length of time. I hadn't actually heard about the 335 years war between Holland and the Isles of Scilly. I wonder whether we can consider the Cold War as a possible contender, and whether we might argue that we are entering a new Cold War now.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was thinking the same thing as post#6 when I first read your question, given that the state of war during the Crusades indeed lasted centuries, and of course, while it ebbed and flowed in terms of how dedicated the western Christian nations and the Catholic Church were in pursuing their dream of recapturing the Holy Land, one could also say the war between Islam and Christianity preceded the Crusades and continued on after it.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting question regarding the Cold War! Maybe we need to consider what we are defining as "war" - does it have to involve shooting of armaments in order to be considered a war? Of course, shots were fired during the Cold War - at the Berlin Wall, for example - so maybe it does qualify.

atomicbavarian | Student

Clearly difficult to pin this down. I'll just throw in the Three Kingdoms period of China. Like the 100 Years War, it wasn't constant but it seems like the scale of war was even larger in the Three Kingdoms period.

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