Some conflicts are passed down from generation to generation, either because of their size, or because they simmer at a low boil with little violence. Others were ostensibly declared wars that never ended due to various diplomatic irregularities or political quirks. In either case, the wars listed here are the longest wars in history.
In fact, the longest war in history, the Punic Wars, lasted over 2,000 years - but only had 80 years of combat. Another incredibly long war, the 335 Years' War, never had a shot fired and was forgotten until a ceremonial treaty was signed ending it.
At the same time, some conflicts that have lasted for decades have seen incredible violence, massacres and bloodshed - often between countrymen. There's nothing fun about the longest war, and these long wars all lasted longer than 30 years, either because they just dragged on for a long time or there was never an official peace treaty. Read on to learn more about the longest wars ever, some of which are still being fought today.
Kuril Islands Dispute (160 Years And Counting)
Japan and Russia have been feuding over the Kuril Islands, a small chain located between Hokkaido in the south and Kamchatka in the north, since relations were established between the two nations in 1855. Various occupations of the islands came and went until August 1945, when Russian forces invaded and captured the islands as part of their Manchurian Strategic Operation against Japan.
Confusingly, the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, which formally ended the war with Japan, ordered Japan to give up all claims to the Kuril Islands, but didn’t recognize the Soviet Union's sovereignty over them. They fell into a quasi-legal zone, but Russia still had physical control over them. Both nations claim dominion, with Japan calling them the “Northern Territories” and Russia calling them the “South Kuril District.” The two nations are still squabbling over who has claim to what.
Huéscar Vs. Denmark (172 Years)
In 1809, the Spanish municipality of Huéscar declared war on Denmark, which was itself at war with Napoleonic France. Spanish troops had been cut off in French-occupied Denmark during the war against France, and the Danish were forcing them to swear loyalty oaths to Napoleon’s brother. Despite the patriotic outburst, war fever apparently wasn’t all that contagious, as the people promptly forgot about it and went on with their lives.
Long a local legend, it wasn’t until 1981 that a Spanish historian discovered the original declaration of war. A ceremony was arranged and on November 11 of that year the mayor of Huéscar and the Ambassador of Denmark officially ended their bloodless, forgotten war.
Hundred Years' War (116 Years)
The 100 Years' War was so long that there’s actually an extra 16 years that just got rounded off. In fact, the “war” was actually three wars, separated by fairly long periods of peace: the Edwardian War (1337-1360); the Caroline War (1369-1389); and the Lancastrian War (1415-1453).
In 1337, a long squabble over recognition and title broke out in war between France and England. Three years later, King Edward III of England crossed the English Channel and destroyed the French fleet - with a full-scale invasion happening six years later. England won the Edwardian phase and took possession of France. France then pushed the English out in the second phase before disintegrating into internal conflict, but pulled it together to win the third phase of the war - generations after everyone who fought the first phase was dead. A broke and defeated England soon fell apart into the Wars of the Roses and relinquished their claim on the French throne.
Montenegro Vs. Japan (101 Years)
A diplomatic irregularity of the Russo-Japanese War, the “conflict” between Montenegro and Japan existed on paper only, with virtually no military effort expended on either side. Montenegro declared war on Japan in support of Russia, but provided only a few volunteers to fight, having no navy or standing army. When the conflict ended in 1905, Montenegro was rudely left out of the peace treaty. However, this was only an issue for 14 years, since Montenegro was absorbed by Serbia in 1919 and stopped being a country.
In 2006, Montenegro again established itself as an autonomous country, and when a Japanese envoy arrived in the country, he also carried a letter from the Japanese prime minister declaring the century-long war finally over.