Does Contemporary Armed Conflict Have 'Deep Historical Roots'?

43 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2014

See all articles by James D. Fearon

James D. Fearon

Stanford University

David Laitin

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Date Written: August 20, 2014

Abstract

We assess the degree of persistence in armed conflict in particular places over the last two centuries. At the regional level, we find some evidence of anti-persistence, consistent with Tilly's arguments about war and state-building: Eastern and Western Europe had large amounts of conflict from 1815-1945 and almost none after, whereas Africa, Asia, and the Middle East had moderate amounts before and large amounts after. Within regions, by contrast, places that experienced colonial and imperial wars before 1945 (or before 1914) were more likely to have civil wars after independence. The degree of persistence is not much affected by controls for durable features that may affect conflict levels in both periods (such as initial population, land area, ethnic diversity, terrain roughness, income, and colonial power), suggesting that at least some of the effect is due to conflict in one period causing conflict later. We can rule out persistence being due to long-lasting ethnic feuds, and find little evidence that places with more developed pre-colonial states were consistently more likely to have fought with colonizers and then with other groups after independence. There is some evidence of persistence in the groups that fought with colonizers before 1945 and then again after independence with other local groups.

Keywords: conflict, civil war, colonialism

JEL Classification: D74, N4, H56

Suggested Citation

Fearon, James D. and Laitin, David, Does Contemporary Armed Conflict Have 'Deep Historical Roots'? (August 20, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1922249 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1922249

James D. Fearon (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

David Laitin

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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