Wars are Becoming Less Frequent: A Response to Harrison and Wolf

17 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2014

See all articles by Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

University of Essex; International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

Steve Pickering

University of Essex

Date Written: February 2014


Harrison and Wolf claim that interstate ‘wars are becoming more frequent’. This is an alarming claim deserving serious attention. It is also a highly surprising claim, since recent conflict research tends to find the opposite: incidences of violent conflict are becoming less frequent. We argue that Harrison and Wolf's claim is incorrect. We show empirically that interstate wars are in fact becoming less frequent. Other data on tensions between states below war, such as the Interstate Crises Behavior data, also suggest a decline in conflict between states. We detail how Harrison and Wolf's analysis is misleading, highlighting how their findings primarily arise as a likely artefact of their uncritical use of the Militarized Interstate Disputes (MIDs) data, and explaining why MIDs cannot be interpreted as ‘wars’. Given that Harrison and Wolf's basic premise is wrong, and wars are not becoming more frequent, we should be sceptical of their conclusions. We briefly revisit their suggested explanations for why wars may become more frequent in light of what we know about long‐term trends in warfare and research on interstate war.

Suggested Citation

Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede and Pickering, Steve, Wars are Becoming Less Frequent: A Response to Harrison and Wolf (February 2014). The Economic History Review, Vol. 67, Issue 1, pp. 214-230, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2379785 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0289.12002

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (Contact Author)

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

N-0260 Oslo

Steve Pickering

University of Essex ( email )

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