Contractors, Private

Scholars and the general public alike associate private contractors with the word mercenary, a term that conjures up images of African coups in the 1960s or, to take a longer view, the condottieri that wreaked havoc in Renaissance Italy. While soldiers of this type certainly existed in many past incarnations, “mercenary” does not do adequate justice to the complex role private contractors played in the history of warfare.

Private contractors have plied their trades as highly organized entities for centuries. The joint stock companies that explored and conquered the New World were not always motley collections of soldiers for hire but impressive conglomerations of military and logistical expertise. Young nationstates lacking the means to defend their sovereignty frequently relied on this expertise by granting contractors ...

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