War and Peace over the Long Run

OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘War and Peace over the Long Run’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace-long-run/ [Online Resource]

This entry presents a very long run perspective on violent conflicts.

You might also be interested in the data-entry that is focusing on wars since 1945.

We also published a data visualization history of human violence here on OurWorldInData.org which presents empirical data showing that we are now living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

# Empirical View

# The past was not peaceful

It would be wrong to believe that the past was peaceful. One reason why some people might have this impression is that many of the past conflicts feature less prominently in our memories, they are simply forgotten.

An overview of all the conflicts that we have historical knowledge and an estimate of the number of fatalities of is shown in the visualization below.

The red circles visualize all conflicts in the Conflict Catalog (here) authored by Peter Brecke. Brecke’s dataset contains information on 3708 conflicts, but in the more distant past it is still incomplete and for many past conflicts Brecke is either lacking an estimate of the number of fatalities or we can suspect that entire conflicts are completely unknown.

Global deaths in conflicts, since 14001


# In Europe the second half of the 20th century was extraordinarily peaceful

The following Gantt chart shows the years in which European countries (or their predecessor states) took part in an international wars. Below the country-by-country visualization we see the sum (per half century) of all years in which European countries fought wars.

Years in which European countries took part in an international war, 1500-20002


Percentage of years in which the ‘Great Powers’ fought one another, 1500-20153

Percentage of years in which the great powers fought one another 1500–2000

Death rates from military conflicts in England, 1170s-1900s – Clark (2008)4

Death Rates from Military Conflicts in England, 1170s–1900s - Clark0


# Wars and Other Atrocities in the Very Long Run

A list of ‘Dictionaries or Encyclopedias of Wars and Battles’ is presented by Peter Brecke in his article ‘The Long-Term Patterns of Violent Conflict in Different Regions of the World’.5

‘The 100 Worst Atrocities’ over the last millennia – New York Times6

CLICK HERE to see the infographic in more detail.

The 100 Worst Atrocities over the last Millennia - New York Times [Data from Matthew White]0


# The 20th Century

International battle deaths per 100,000 people, 20th Century – Acemoglu (2012)7

International Battle Deaths per 100,000 (20th Century) - Acemoglu0

# Data Sources

# Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
  • Data: Armed conflict data
  • Geographical coverage: Global
  • Time span: 1948-2008
  • Available at: Online here
# Peter Brecke’s Conflict Catalog
  • Data: 3708 conflicts, data on parties, fatalities, date and duration
  • Geographical coverage: Global
  • Time span: 1400 CE to present
  • Available at: Online at Clio Infra