7/22/11 - more countries and more wars

Today's excerpt comes from the pages of History Today—the number of wars fought each year (not including civil wars) is increasing, in no small part because the number of countries has increased, quadrupling since 1870 from 47 countries to 187 in 2001:

"New research by Professors Mark Harrison from the University of Warwick and Nikolaus Wolf from Humboldt University has revealed that between 1870 and 2001, the frequency of wars between states increased steadily by 2% a year on average. Between 1870 and 1913, the frequency of 'pairwise' conflicts (the numbers of pairs of countries involved in conflicts) increased on average by 6% per year. The frequency of wars increased by 17% per year in the period of the First and Second World Wars, and by 31% per year during the Cold War. In the 1990s, the frequency of wars between states rose by 36% per year.

"Professor Mark Harrison explained how: 'The number of conflicts has been rising on a stable trend. Because of two world wars, the pattern is obviously disturbed between 1914 and 1945 but remarkably, after 1945 the frequency of wars resumed its upward course on pretty much the same path as before 1913'....

"According to Harrison and Wolf, this increase in the frequency of pairwise conflicts can be explained by two principal factors: economic growth and the proliferation of borders. The number of countries has thus almost quadrupled since 1870, rising from 47 countries in 1870, to 187 in 2001.

"Harrison continued: 'More pairs of countries have clashed because there have been more pairs. This is not reassuring: it shows that there is a close connection between wars and the creation of states and new borders.'

"Looking specifically at the countries that have initiated disputes, the study shows that there is no tendency for richer countries (defined by a higher GDP per head) to make more frequent military interventions than others. The readiness to engage in war is spread relatively uniformly across the global income distribution.

"Thinkers of the Enlightenment believed, and many political scientists still believe today, that the political leaders of richer and more democratic countries have fewer incentives to go to war. Over the course of the twentieth century, on the whole, countries have become richer, more democratic and more interdependent. Yet, Harrison and Wolf's study disproves the theory that as GDP increases countries are less likely to engage in warfare."


Kathryn Hadley


"Alarming Increase in Wars"


History Today


July 12, 2011
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