IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Frequency of Wars


  • Harrison, Mark

    (University of Warwick, University of Birmingham and Hoover Institution Stanford University)

  • Wolf, Nikolaus

    (University of Warwick and CEPR)


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. We need better understanding of how to promote these goods without incurring adverse side-effects on world peace

Suggested Citation

  • Harrison, Mark & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2008. "The Frequency of Wars," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 879, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:879

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:99:y:2005:i:03:p:467-472_05 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:97:y:2003:i:04:p:585-602_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Töngür, Ünal & Hsu, Sara & Elveren, Adem Yavuz, 2015. "Military expenditures and political regimes: Evidence from global data, 1963–2000," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 68-79.
    2. Rota, Mauro, 2011. "Military Burden and the Democracy Puzzle," MPRA Paper 35254, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Ben Li & Penglong Zhang, 2016. "International Geopolitics," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 909, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 06 Feb 2017.
    4. Harrison, Mark, 2011. "Capitalism at War," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 60, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Unal Tongur & Sara Hsu & Adem Yavuz Elveren, 2013. "Military Expenditures and Political Regimes: An Analysis Using Global Data, 1963-2001," ERC Working Papers 1307, ERC - Economic Research Center, Middle East Technical University, revised Jul 2013.
    6. Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Steve Pickering, 2014. "Wars are becoming less frequent: a response to Harrison and Wolf," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(1), pages 214-230, February.
    7. Harrison, Mark, 2013. "The Economics of Coercion and Conflict: an Introduction," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 151, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    8. Mark Harrison & Nikolaus Wolf, 2014. "The frequency of wars: reply to Gleditsch and Pickering," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(1), pages 231-239, February.
    9. Rota, Mauro, 2016. "Military spending, fiscal capacity and the democracy puzzle," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 41-51.

    More about this item


    wars; state capacity; democracy; trade;

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:879. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Margaret Nash). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.