Standard Article

Just War Theory, History of

  1. Gregory M. Reichberg

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee358

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Reichberg, G. M. 2013. Just War Theory, History of. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Moral reflection on war (see War) has a long pedigree in Western civilization. The idea that warfare should be guided by norms of justice is given voice in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The idea is developed more explicitly by Cicero and St. Augustine, both of whom emphasized how war can be justifiable only when it is waged without cruelty and to restore a peace that has been wrongly violated. However, it was not until the Latin Middle Ages (twelfth–thirteenth centuries) – when canon lawyers and theologians adopted the term of art bellum justum (just war) – that a systematic approach to this subject emerged.


  • Christianity;
  • legal and political;
  • politics;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • pacifism;
  • peace;
  • violence;
  • war and conflict