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Assessing trends in battle deaths over time: an update to 2007

Bethany A Lacina, Stanford University
Nils Petter Gleditsch, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo

In 2005 we published a dataset that provided new estimates of battle deaths in war from 1946-2002, based on a synthesis of previous studies. This dataset was used to argue that the second half of the twentieth century had seen a clear, but erratic decline in the severity of warfare. This development has been linked to the end of the Cold War. Recently, the empirical basis of the claim that war is declining in lethality has received particular scrutiny. In particular, a study in the British Medical Journal claims that mortality in warfare is higher than estimated in our 2005 article and that there is no clear evidence of a decline. Here, we present at update of the battle deaths data to 2007 and revisit the issue of the declining lethality of war on the basis of the new data and an evaluation of the criticism of the original dataset.

Presented in Session 102: A decline of violence? Measurement and empirical issues