Democracy, Territory, and Armed Conflict, 1919–1995


  • Authors' notes: Our special thanks are due to Michael Colaresi, Valentina Bali, and Cristina Bodea for their helpful comments on multiple occasions. We are also grateful to David Carter, Petra Hendrickson, Douglas Lemke, Sara Mitchell, Michael Mousseau, John Oneal, James Lee Ray, Bruce Russett, John Vasquez, and Brandon Valeriano for their helpful comments. Paul Huth and Todd Allee kindly shared their territorial claim data. Also, we thank Paul Hensel for making the ICOW data available online.


Democracy and territory are two of the most important factors that affect conflict and war. Yet no research design looks directly at a possible interaction between these two variables to influence occurrence of armed conflict. This study seeks to answer the following question: “How do two democracies behave when a contentious issue such as territory arises as the source of conflict between them?” Results based on Militarized Interstate Dispute data from 1920 to 1996 produce the conclusion that the pacifying effect of democracy stands up for both territorial dyads and non-territorial ones in spite of the imperatives toward militarization created by territorial conflict. However, territory of high salience still appears to increase the likelihood of armed conflict between two democracies.