The Frequency of Wars

Economic History Review, Forthcoming

30 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2012

See all articles by Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

University of Warwick; University of Birmingham

Nikolaus Wolf

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Humboldt University Berlin - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 10, 2011


Wars are increasingly frequent, and the trend has been steadily upward since 1870. The main tradition of Western political and philosophical thought suggests that extensive economic globalization and democratization over this period should have reduced appetites for war far below their current level. This view is clearly incomplete: at best, confounding factors are at work. Here, we explore the capacity to wage war. Most fundamentally, the growing number of sovereign states has been closely associated with the spread of democracy and increasing commercial openness, as well as the number of bilateral conflicts. Trade and democracy are traditionally thought of as goods, both in themselves, and because they reduce the willingness to go to war, conditional on the national capacity to do so. But the same factors may also have been increasing the capacity for war, and so its frequency.

Keywords: wars, state capacity, democracy, trade

JEL Classification: H56, N40

Suggested Citation

Harrison, Mark and Wolf, Nikolaus and Wolf, Nikolaus, The Frequency of Wars (March 10, 2011). Economic History Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Mark Harrison (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Department of Economics
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom


University of Birmingham ( email )

Birmingham, B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Nikolaus Wolf

Humboldt University Berlin - Department of Economics ( email )

Spandauer Strasse 1


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+4420-7852-3512 (Phone)

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