The main objective of this paper is to systematically identify potential channels of transmission linking civil war and poverty that may lead to the persistence of cycles of poverty and war. A particular focus of the paper is the notion of individual (and group) agency during civil wars, as well as agency constraints faced by populations affected by violence. Although the outbreak and impact of war is known to depend on several financial and political factors, the onset, duration and magnitude of the impact of civil wars are also closely related to what happens to people during violent conflicts and to what people do in areas of violence to secure livelihoods, economic survival, physical security and their social networks. The nature and extent of these choices depends in turn on how individuals and households relate to changes in social norms and forms of institutional organisation during civil wars. The paper explores the economic channels through which war may simultaneously affect and be affected by the economic status and responses of individuals and their immediate relations in areas of violent conflict to cope with and adapt to changes to livelihoods and economic status during civil wars. This analysis focuses in particular on the important but under-researched role of social and political institutional transformation during civil war on individual and household poverty.