Colonial war and the democratic peace

  • Ravlo H
  • Gleditsch N
  • Dorussen H
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Proponents of the democratic peace have been criticized for failing to discuss colonial wars. Democratic countries have repeatedly fought such wars, which critics hold to be incompatible with democratic peace theory. Three reasons are suggested to explain why colonial wars do not invalidate the democratic peace argument. First, although democracies rarely, if ever, fight one another, they participate in war as much as nondemocracies. Thus, mixed political dyads have the greatest propensity for war. If nonstate adversaries are commonly perceived to be nondemocratic, democracies should fight colonial wars more frequently. Sec- ond, the nature of colonial conflict has changed over time. The relationship between democracy and colonial war is examined in colonial, imperialist, and postcolonial periods. Finally, a correct assessment of the demo- cratic peace argument needs to rely on a multivariate model. With a suitable set of control variables, the posi- tive relationship between war and democracy disappears. We also observe that in the post-World War II period, democracies fight colonial wars less frequently than non-democracies. We surmise that this might be related to changes in the perception of non-European peoples.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Colonial war
  • Democratic peace
  • Extrasystemic war
  • Imperialist colonization
  • Postcolonial period

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  • Hilde Ravlo

  • Nils Petter Gleditsch

  • Han Dorussen

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