The description on the Harry Potter wiki for Grindelwald says:

Grindelwald left Britain and soon stole the Elder Wand, building an army and rising to power in continental Europe. During his reign of terror, he murdered many wizards and Muggles.

The description for First Wizarding War says:

The Dark Lord's rebellion occurred with the help of his Death Eaters, Dark wizards and witches who served him and brought terror to both Muggle and magical innocents.

Both of those descriptions sound the same. A Dark Wizard brings together a group of loyal followers and then terrorizes the wizard and muggle populations. Why isn't Grindelwald's conquest for power called the First Wizarding War?

3 Answers 3


Most likely, "First Wizarding War" is a British term. Grindelwald's war wasn't in Britain, and thus not named as a generic war (for a somewhat different but related analogy, WW2 in USSR is called "Great Patriotic War" - the WW1 wasn't since it wasn't a war for Russia's existance).

  • A little correction: a period in WW2 is called "Great Patriotic War" in Russia. Namely, the period from June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, to May 8, 1945, when Germany capitulated.
    – Malcolm
    Oct 22, 2013 at 17:17
  • @Malcolm - memetically, it's the same thing to Russians, though you're technically correct. Oct 22, 2013 at 17:19
  • 6
    I am Russian, and I can assure you, it's not the same. Nobody would say that the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan during the Great Patriotic War, for example; that would be ridiculous. When the historic events don't concern the USSR directly, everyone still discusses WW2, just like the rest of the world.
    – Malcolm
    Oct 23, 2013 at 0:15
  • 1
    @Malcolm - When I went to school (in USSR) that was exactly how pretty much everyone except the history teacher referred to entire WWII. Oct 23, 2013 at 1:18
  • 2
    Well, definitely not in your first comment, which refers to Russians in present tense. As for my comment, you can call that an addition, then, not a correction. I don't actually see the point in this argument.
    – Malcolm
    Oct 24, 2013 at 3:38

Grindelwald's realm of influence never extended to Britain. As usual, the Harry Potter series magical Britain does its best to ignore global events.

As Grindelwald never extended his campaign of terror to Britain, however, the details of his rise to power are not widely known here.
--Rita Skeeter
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 18)


The term “First Wizarding War” is never actually used in the books.

The term “First Wizarding War” is never used anywhere in the seven Harry Potter books - searching each of them for the term produces no results. The most likely origin of the term is a continuation from Chapter 38 of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” which is titled “The Second War Begins”, in which the Ministry recognizes Voldemort has returned.

‘In a brief statement on Friday night, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He Who Must Not Be Named has returned to this country and is once more active.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)

The term “First Wizarding War” is likely to originate with readers extrapolating from that chapter title - if Voldemort’s return is called the “Second War” in the chapter title, then his previous rise to power could theoretically be considered the “First War”. However, the first time when Voldemort rose to power is not referred to in this way by either the narration or characters, including in the book with the chapter titled “The Second War Begins”.

“Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again,’ said Sirius. ‘In the old days he had huge numbers at his command: witches and wizards he’d bullied or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety of Dark creatures.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 5 (The Order of the Phoenix)

Therefore, the reason that Grindelwald’s rise to power was not called the First Wizarding War is twofold - in-universe they are not called the First Wizarding War because nothing mentioned is called the First Wizarding War, and the out-of-universe explanation is that readers extrapolated the name from a chapter title referencing the second war with Voldemort.

  • This does align with my understanding of how WW1 was called "The War to End All Wars", or "The Great War"- before WW2 happened. In other words - you don't call something horrible the first of something unless you fully expect there to be a second of the horrible thing. That said, my initial thought was more along the lines of "Because Rowling's bad at Math.". Oct 6, 2021 at 4:42

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