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Historical Conflict Around the World: Types & Locations

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  • 0:00 Historical Causes of Conflict
  • 0:50 Ancient Rivalries
  • 2:00 Arbitrary Borders
  • 3:05 Nationalism
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Ever held a grudge? Wanted revenge? Maybe you have, maybe you haven't, but did you know that countries do the same thing? This lesson shows how past wrongs can be big sources of conflict for countries.

Historical Causes of Conflict

Have you ever felt the need for revenge, or maybe just to ''get back'' at someone? Chances are, even if for a minute, you felt the need to right a previous wrong. Maybe it was stealing a cookie from the sibling that just stole your piece of cake. Perhaps it was to get a solo dance performance to deprive the person who tripped you on your first day of practice from getting it. For whatever reason, we humans do tend to be a vindictive bunch. Unfortunately, the countries that we live in tend to be even more likely to look back into history in order to find a reason to fight. As you're about to find out, history is full of opportunities for conflict. Let's take a look at three major types of historical conflict: ancient rivalries, arbitrary borders, and nationalism.

Ancient Rivalries

Some rivalries are so old that people forget why they dislike each other in the first place. Really, what did the Yankees do to upset Red Sox fans so badly? Or do I have that reversed? Does anyone still remember? Frankly, does anyone still care about the cause? Red Sox and Yankees fans need not answer those questions, by the way.

It sounds silly, but these ancient rivalries can be literally hundreds of years old, even if the reason for fighting is long gone. Take the divide between Sunni and Shia Islam, for example. It is at the core of much of the disagreement right now in the Middle East, touching literally everything from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Do you know what it was over? Simple - who should have been the ruler more than 1300 years ago. That's what caused the biggest divide in Islamic history. Granted, the two groups have evolved to have many differences in the past centuries, but the main cause is that simple. As we don't have a time machine to go back and find a fair solution, there is little sign that this divide is going away. As a result, we are left to watch Sunnis and Shias work out their differences as best they can.

Arbitrary Borders

Speaking of the Middle East, have you ever looked at a map of the place? Look at all those straight lines. In fact, looking at the globe, look at all those straight lines in Africa too. When compared to the zigzags of Europe, those borders look completely logical.

Unfortunately, they are anything but logical. Imagine if someone drew an imaginary line down the middle of your house. Suddenly, your parents' room is in a different country than your room! Needless to say, that would make eating dinner or getting a ride to school difficult. However, this is how the arbitrary borders of much of the Middle East and Africa were actually drawn. They have no regard for existing social structures, like families or tribes or even religious or linguistic groups. Instead, they were drawn just to look nice on a map.

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