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    (Wikipedia) - Warlord For other uses, see Warlord (disambiguation).
    This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (November 2008)
    Uesugi Kenshin was one of the most powerful lords of the Warring States period in Japan.

    A warlord is a person who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to the presence of armed forces who are loyal to the warlord rather than to a central authority.



    The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war. Today, the word has a strong connotation that the person exercises far more power than their official title or rank legitimately permits. Under feudalism, by contrast, the local military leader may enjoy great autonomy and a personal army, and still derive legitimacy from formal fealty to a central authority.

    Warlordism is a term coined to describe chaos at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the birth of the Republic of China, from the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916 until 1928. This period is called the warlord era of China. It can however be used to describe similar periods in other countries or epochs such as in Japan during the Sengoku period, or in China during the Three Kingdoms.

    The word "warlord" entered the English language as a translation from the German word "Kriegsherr", which was an official title of the German Emperor. Its use for Chinese military commanders who had a regional power base and ruled independently of the central government dates from the early 1920s, with Bertram Lenox Simpson being one source, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Modern usage

    Warlordism frequently appears in failed states, states in which central government and nationwide authorities have collapsed or exist merely formally without actual control over the state territory. They are usually defined by a high level of clientelism, low bureaucratic control, and a high motivation to prolong war for the maintenance of their economic system.



    Warlords exercised widespread rule in China several times in Chinese history — notably in the period starting from the Xinhai Revolution, when numerous provinces rebelled and declared their independence from the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and especially after Yuan Shikai''s death, until the Northern Expedition in 1927. This was a period known as the Warlord era. Despite the superficial unification of China in 1927 under the rule of the Kuomintang (KMT) under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, warlordism remained a problem until the victory of the Communist Party of China in 1949.

    190–280 618–907

    The end of the Tang Dynasty brought the highest number of warlords in Chinese history, and it is known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

    1115–1234 1368–1644 1644–1911 Republic of China Main article: Warlord Era

    There were twelve warlords who served as Area Commanders officially:


    Warlordism in Europe is usually connected to various mercenary companies and their chieftains, which often were de facto power-holders in the areas where they resided. Such free companies would arise in a situation when the recognized central power had collapsed, such as in the Great Interregnum in Germany (1254–1278) or in France during the Hundred Years'' War after the Battle of Poitiers; and in the Kingdom of Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

    Free company mercenary captains, such as Sir John Hawkwood, Roger de Flor of Catalan Company or Hugh Calveley could be considered as warlords. Several condottieri in Italy can also be classified as warlords.

    Ygo Gales Galama was a famous Frisian warlord, and so was his cousin Pier Gerlofs Donia, who was the leader of the Arumer Black Heap.

    The Imperial commanders-in-chief during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I did hold the title Kriegsherr of which the direct translation was "warlord", but they were not warlords in sense of the word defined.

    Russian Civil War

    Warlordism was widespread in Civil War-era Russia (1918–1922). Many territories weren''t under control of either Red government in Petrograd (later in Moscow) or White governments in Omsk and Rostov. These territories were controlled by warlords of various political colors. Anarchist warlords Nestor Makhno, leader of Free Territory, and his ally Maria Nikiforova operated in Ukraine. The Cossack ataman Semyonov held territories in Transbaikalia region, and the Bloody Baron Ungern von Sternberg was the dictator of Mongolia for a short time.

    Note that the White generals such as Kolchak or Denikin are not considered warlords, because they created a legitimate, though ramshackle government and military command.


    During most of the 16th century, before the Tokugawa era, Japan was tormented by repeated wars among rival warlords (see Sengoku Era). Each warlord had several castles, neighbouring land with peasants and a private army of samurai.


    During the last years of the Kingdom of Silla, also known as the Later Three Kingdoms, various warlords rebelled against the government and were in de facto control of the Korean Peninsula. The warlordism in Korea plagued the nation until Goryeo Dynasty finally defeated and merged all the warlords and united the country once again.

    Vietnam Twelve warlords war

    A historical era between 945 AD to 967 AD ended by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, a retainer of the warlord Trần Lãm.

    Lý dynasty

    Toward the end of the Lý dynasty, the central government failed to execute its legitimate authority, giving rise to many local warlords, later conquered by chancellor Trần Thủ Độ of the Trần clan.

    Lê dynasty

    Years of unrest and civil war between Lê and Mạc courts during the 16th century saw many warlords'' rise and fall. The Vũ clan in Tuyên Quang enjoyed their autonomy for 200 years before subdued by Lê force. The Nguyễn clan took control of Thuan Hua, paved way for the Dang Trong entity.


    After the fall of the Mongol Empire, Mongolia was divided between the Eastern and Western Mongols. At the time of disintegration, many warlords tried to enthrone themselves or rule the khanate jointly, however, there had been powerful de factos in all parts of the Mongol Empire before.

    Mongol Empire Yuan Dynasty Golden Horde Ilkhanate Chagatai Khanate Northern Yuan Dynasty Bogd Khanate Mongolia Further reading

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