Civil war is a form of conflict where citizens fight against one another. The term has been applied to conflicts ranging from brief insurrections to protracted, bloody struggles (e.g., the American Civil War).
Civil wars often result from political or religious differences but may also be due to ethnic, cultural, or nationalistic factors. Some are also waged in order to achieve independence for a region or territory. In some cases, there may not be an identifiable enemy even when violence breaks out.
Civil wars often occur after a coup d’état, when one faction takes over and establishes its own government, or when the existing government loses control of its territory and cannot maintain public order. In some cases, both sides may see themselves as fighting for national liberation or against foreign occupation. The term “civil war” was first used in English during the Peasants’ Revolt (1381).
The distinction between a civil war and other types of conflict has not been universally agreed upon since there is no clear definition of what constitutes a civil war; however, it can generally be defined as a conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take control (or keep) political power at the national level. Civil wars differ from other types of conflict in that they often result from internal disagreements within nations rather than external conflicts between nations. The experience of many countries has been that internal civil wars are more likely to happen than international ones.