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A civil war is a war in which parties within the same culture, society or nationality fight against each other for the control of political power. Political scientists use two criteria: the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second criterion is that at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.
Some civil wars are categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict. An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles. Other historians state the criterion for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not).
Ultimately the distinction between a "civil war" and a "revolution" or any other name may be arbitrary, and is determined by usage. However the distinction between a "civil war" and "revolution" can be recognizable. The successful civil war of the 1640s in England which led to the (temporary) overthrow of the monarchy became known as the English Civil War, which can be described, by Marxists and some historians, as the English Revolution. The successful insurgency of the 1770s in British colonies in America, with organized armies fighting battles, came to be known as the American Revolution. In the United States, and in American-dominated sources, the term 'the civil war' usually means the American Civil War, with other civil wars noted or inferred from context.
Factors such as nationalism, religion, and ideology played little role in pre-modern civil wars. Modern nationalists have commonly read past revolts (such as Scotland against England or Catalonia against Spain) as early stirrings of nationalism, the truth is that these conflicts were in fact feudal or dynastic rather than national. There are some pre-modern civil wars that can be seen as fueled by religion (the Jewish Revolts against Rome), but these can also be seen as revolts by a servile people against their oppressors or uprisings by local notables in an attempt to gain independence.