Technology and the era of the mass army

Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, Kenneth Scheve, David Stasavage

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We investigate how technology has influenced the size of armies. During the nineteenth century, the development of the railroad made it possible to field and support mass armies, significantly increasing the observed size of military forces. During the late twentieth century, further advances in technology made it possible to deliver explosive force from a distance and with precision, making mass armies less desirable. We find support for our technological account using a new data set covering thirteen great powers between 1600 and 2000. We find little evidence that the French Revolution was a watershed in terms of levels of mobilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-481
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Economic History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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