Now that I’ve received my spiffy new Encylopedia of Wars, a rather handsome three-volume set, it appears that my first estimate of 10.8 percent of wars being religious in nature was too high.
I haven’t gone through it in detail yet, but since the authors were helpful enough to list religious wars in the index, a quick comparison reveals that the true figure is more likely to be around seven percent. And this seven percent includes 14 iterations of the Byzantine-Muslim war as well as categorizing every Crusade as being religious in nature, even though most historians have concluded that a few of them, such as the Fourth, had nothing to do with religion in any way, shape or form.*
It’s interesting to note that despite the results of their own research, the authors of this seminal work nevertheless appear to blame pre-seventeenth century war on religion. On a closer reading, however, it may be more of a nod to the common prejudice of the historically ignorant than a reflection of their own conclusions. I think I shall have to ask them about this.
*The Fourth Crusade was the Venetian conquest of Constantinople, the Christian capital of the Byzantine Empire.