On the Decline of War. / Spagat, Michael; Van Weezel, Stijn.


Research output: Working paper




For the past 70 years, there has been a downward trend in war sizes, but the idea of an enduring ‘long peace’ remains controversial. Some recent contributions suggest that observed war patterns, including the long peace, could have resulted from a long-standing and unchanging war-generating process, an idea rooted in Lewis F Richardson’s pioneering work on war. Focusing on the hypothesis that the war sizes after the Second World War are generated by the same mechanism that generated war sizes before the Second World War, recent work failed to reject this ‘no-change’ hypothesis. In this chapter, we transform the war-size data into units of battle deaths per 100,000 of world population rather than absolute battle deaths – units appropriate for investigating the probability that a random person will die in a war. This change tilts the evidence towards rejecting no-change hypotheses. We also show that sliding the candidate break point slightly forward in time, to 1950 rather than 1945, leads us further down the path toward formal rejection of a large number of no-change hypotheses. We expand the range of wars considered to include not just inter-state wars, as is commonly done, but also intra-state wars. Now we do formally reject many versions of the no-change hypothesis. Finally, we show that our results do not depend on the choice of war dataset.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

ID: 33115361