The paper examines some of the conceptual and methodological problems involved in identifying interstate wars, particularly wars among the great powers during the 1495–1815 period. The definition of war as substantial armed conflict involving the organized military forces of independent political units leads directly to three major sets of problems regarding the operational identification of wars: identification of the actors whose wars are to be analyzed; specification of a minimum threshold of violence or intensity of interaction for qualification as a war; and boundary problems concerning the determination of the beginning and end of a war and the aggregation or disaggregation of simultaneous or sequential wars. Problems of index construction, validity and reliability, data sources and biases, and data availability are critical. Problems involved in measuring the attributes of war, including its duration and severity, are dealt with primarily in terms of their relevance for the issue of identifying wars, though I include a brief note on problems with the intensity indicator based on national population data.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations