In a rural area with a stationary society, what is the minimum ratio needed to support a community while having the most amount of dedicated fighters(people whos only job is warfare)?

Trading/importing from the nearby villages is allowed(though preferably only for food), guns and nuclear tech dont exist(CLARIFICATION- gunpowder is very rare/barely existent and explosives are made with magic and radioactive isotopes are beyond the village's reach at the current time). Cars are 1900s level only and are extremely rare(CLARIFICATION- maybe one or two imported in the whole village- trains exist but not in the village yet). Weapons are all capable of being made by a blacksmith or experienced carver(bow and arrows or staff).

Clarification- Guns havent occurred to people yet because some of the components of gunpowder are too rare for anyone but very rich nobles to get a sizable amount to work with. Its less that people cant make the gun and more the gunpowder is a bit too rare.

Clarification- This is not earth as we know it. Things were not invented in the same order. Steam coal, and oil power exist. Im debating about very early electricity being used in the village. The cars were imported from elsewhere.

Magic is a thing but limited largely to the dedicated fighters and the doctors. Said magic is capable of making a bag of holding and healing people. It cannot make crops grow faster and cannot create material that does not already exist.

Im pretty sure the calculation I saw was roughly 1 professional fighter for every 100 civilians for a closed pre-industrial society, however I cannot find the source of that, and it assumes no magic, questionable medical care, minimal bureaucracy and no trade.

Clarification- The army is not fighting an official war, but is in a stalemate with other factions and thus is building its army while it can get the chance. They are very successful in fighting the assorted bandits and criminals that they are assigned to take care of while they wait(only a few very inexperienced soldiers die) to keep up their skills. Against people who are also trained in magic and combat they are reasonably successful(though fatalities are a bit more widespread). As they are not currently in a war they are not loosing large portions.

Clarification- Some rationing is allowed/done during wars but as they are in relative temporary peacetime this is less important

Having people who work a day job and are still trained to fight(militia) also exist.

Clarification- much of the non peasant class is part of the army, as the village's main purpose is to produce soldiers and medics.

Im aiming for about 300 or so dedicated fighters minimum in what im writing so using the above id have a ballpark of around 30,000 other civilians?

If you take out a large chunk of food production(due to imports) that number would probably be lower... So, anyone have any better estimates?

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    $\begingroup$ Just a random thought: there are numerous ways to (ab)use a bag of holding in economical ways: it could basically take care of all you transportation worries (no more/less need for wagons or anything like that), especially for heavy stuff like stone, minerals or maybe even wood. Also it would make trade a lot more easier. $\endgroup$ – Nicolai Jul 24 '17 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ The ratio is strongly affected by fertility of your location (ex. Nile Delta vs English countryside) and amount of war gear your fighter needs (shield and spear vs. warhorse and full armor). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 24 '17 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ This is highly dependant on the the technology. It's hard to have both post industrial revolution technology (trains and automobiles) and preindustrial technology (swords and bows). $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 24 '17 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ In peace time, 1% is optimistic. That's about 1 of each 50 men, or 1 of each 25 men of fighting age (with a generous value of "fighting age"). Remember that the productive working people support not only the army but also the clergy, the bureaucrats and the nobles. The Roman Empire in its better days managed to maintain a standing army of about 0.5% to 0.6% of the total population. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 24 '17 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ I have a problem with you saying trains are 1900s level. In the UK the London Underground (metro system) was already fully electric by 1905 and the country as a whole had a full, mature, rail network, but you seem to be implying something more primitive in your wording. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 25 '17 at 6:58

For ancient Sparta, the ratio was about 1:10 to 1:15

Population of ancient Greek cities

  • $\begingroup$ Sparta is an outlier, and ultimately was unsustainable. Also, are you counting slaves in that ratio, because they had a lot of them. $\endgroup$ – Simba Jul 25 '17 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Simba - Y'know, you could read the linked article yourself. But the answer is yes. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jul 25 '17 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Simba - most societies would become unsustainable after extensive wars. Sparta was very sustainable until war become constant, and they were eventually overcome. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 25 '17 at 17:00

You've given an approximate date of 1900.

There are numbers for the UK in 1901, population 38,328,000 (there was a census in 1901)
Standing army 430,000.

Giving a standing army of 1 for 89 people.

That was the largest the army had ever been as a result of the second Boer war, and 5 times the size it is now. It was only larger during WWI and WWII.

This is not a pre-industrial society, it's post industrial revolution, not long before the peak of the British Empire. Cars are rare, trains are common and capable of running over 100mph. In 1900 the rail network is complex and used to bring food from farms into the cities, the Tube will be fully electrified in 1905.

  • $\begingroup$ If you have lathes capable of boring cylinders for 1900s steam trains, you have lathes capable of boring howitzers and rifles, and at some time in the development of steam engines they will explode and fire the piston out, so at least the idea of steam powered cannon will have occurred to someone by then. $\endgroup$ – Pete Kirkham Jul 25 '17 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @PeteKirkham, a good blacksmith is perfectly capable of turning out a nice rifle. The problem is that each one is unique, parts aren't interchangeable, it's a bespoke rather than mass produced item. However at this point, that's not the hole I'm picking in the question. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 25 '17 at 14:13

There is a rule of thumb of 90% agricultural and farm-related village workers for a medieval society. (Sorry, no readily available quote, but it matches Alexander's answer for Sparta, assuming they all fight.)

Decide what percentage of the non-peasant classes are fighters. Could be half, could be one in ten. The latter would give you 1-100.


By logic, I'd say the minimum amount is 1, or perhaps less (meaning the number of supporters could be less than the number of fighters).

A "fighter", even male, needs nothing that a wife and children do not need. Food to eat and some kind of shelter. Any other ratio is in necessity of paying the fighters and letting them support a family.

In many early human cultures this was not even considered -- men were hunters, and also soldiers, and women and children were generally taking care of grazing animals (usually goats, sometimes cattle, ox, or other bovines); they got their sustenance from milk and other animal products.

I know the OP timeframe is circa 1900, not 1900 BC, but I bring this up to prove a point: Any ratio of civilians to fighters greater than 1 or 2 is due to an economic necessity to pay the fighters.

That makes the ratio dependent upon the efficiency and productivity of the society itself. Even in 1900, this varied greatly from nation to nation, so the answer depends largely upon the average wealth of the nation,and what people can afford to part with. A subsistence level of society needs a very large ratio if fighters are to be paid a living wage; because people cannot afford very much. A rich society in which people can afford high taxes can have a very low ratio.

(In a way, primitive tribes had an extremely high "tax" rate: Soldiers, hunters, wives and children all devoted their entire "working" life to their tribe, without compensation, making it a 100% tax rate!)

  • $\begingroup$ I can only imagine seeing the FICA box on these guy's paychecks... $\endgroup$ – akaioi Sep 7 '17 at 3:54

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