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Warfare and Welfare: on the Connection between Wars and the Development of the Welfare State.

Wars are moments of acceleration in the development of social policy.

After the Second World War in Belgium, the welfare state is directly associated with the Social Pact of April 1944.

In a new book, the connection between wars and the development of the welfare state ('the warfare-welfare nexus') for a number of countries in and outside Europe is the central theme.

 The book is the initiative of three social scientists, specialised researchers on the welfare state and social policy:  Herbert Obinger (University of Bremen), Klaus Petersen and Peter Starke (both University of Southern Denmark). 

They reunited a number of experts, historians as well as social scientists to describe and analyse, from  common interdisciplinary research questions, the impact of wars on the development of the welfare state in a number of countries.

Fourteen countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Japan, the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Israel are discussed. The chronological emphasis is on both world wars, particularly the Second World War, but for some countries also the 19th century military conflicts are analysed.

Preparation of war, warfare, occupation and postwar

The impact of wars on the development of the welfare state differs in each country. For some countries, the preparation of war was a crucial phase, for others the occupation or the immediate postwar period proved more decisive. These different phases are discussed in the different country chapters.

The chapter on Belgium and the Netherlands is a comparative analysis written by Dirk Luyten, researcher at the State Archives/CegeSoma. For both countries, the two world wars appeared to have been important for the further development of the welfare state. They created an upscaling of social protection from the local to the national level and led to a greater commitment of organisations of employers and workers in the planning and implementation of social policy. More than the occupation, the immediate postwar period proved crucial: innovative measures that were introduced became permanent and paved the way for the development of the welfare state in the next decades.


The book allows to compare national developments and to put them in a broader geographical context.


Herbert Obinger, Klaus Petersen, Peter Starke (eds.), Warfare and Welfare. Military Conflict  and Welfare State Development in Western Countries, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018, 481 p.