In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Armed Conflicts/Violence against Civilians Data Sets

  • Introduction
  • Actors in Armed Conflicts
  • Case-Based Data Sets

International Relations Armed Conflicts/Violence against Civilians Data Sets
Charles Butcher
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 May 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0234


This article covers large-N data sources relating to the study of civil war and internal armed conflict. The quantitative study of internal armed conflict has advanced rapidly in the past two decades, driven by the release of near-population data sets of internal armed conflicts such as Gleditsch, et al. 2002; Sarkees and Wayman 2010; and Fearon and Laitin 2003 (all cited under Civil Wars). The authors Melvin Small and J. David Singer [Resort to Arms: International and Civil War, 1816–1980 (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1982)] and the “Correlates of War Project” (COW) were pioneers when they recorded armed conflicts dating back to the Congress of Vienna. In 2000 Doyle and Sambanis published an influential paper that included a list of civil wars from 1944 to 1997 and in 2002 the Peace Research Institute Oslo and the Department of Peace and Conflict Research in Uppsala released the UCDP/PRIO armed conflict data set covering the 1946–2001 period, which has been updated yearly since then and is now probably the most widely utilized data source on armed conflict in scholarly research. COW has also been updated and expanded since its original release. Other notable projects include Fearon and Laitin’s data set of civil wars from 1944 to 1999 and Sambanis 2004 (cited under Civil Wars), a review that includes an alternative list. Recent data projects, such as Sundberg and Melander 2013 (cited under Violent Events) and Raleigh, et al. 2010 (cited under Violent Events), have been characterized by disaggregation and increasing nuance with relation to conflict actors and their activities. Projects such as ICEWS, GDELT, and the Phoenix data project also allow researchers to analyze conflict events in their broader political context, and rich data now exist on the attributes and activities of conflict actors, including data sets related to violence against civilians, pro-government militias, insurgent institutional-building and financing, peace agreements and mediation, international intervention, and the interplay between violent and nonviolent strategies. The article begins with data sets situated at the country or country-year level and then moves to geographical and temporal disaggregation in events data. The third section looks at data sets concentrating on conflict actors and their features while the final section provides a brief survey of influential and innovative case-based data collection efforts. Where possible, links are provided that enable users to access the data.

Conflict Episodes and Dynamics

A number of cross-national data sets provide information on which countries have experienced internal armed conflicts or episodes of violence against civilians and when. Many of these data sets cover the post–World War II period and vary primarily on how civil war is defined and operationalized, especially the number of people who must be killed for an episode to qualify as “civil war.” The Correlates of War (COW) (see Sarkees and Wayman 2010) was one of the first projects to identify episodes of internal armed conflict globally, with a high death threshold for inclusion of 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year with a proportion of these deaths needing to be sustained by the state. The COW project was followed by numerous additional efforts with the most utilized today being the UCDP/PRIO armed conflict data set developed by the authors of Gleditsch, et al. 2002 (cited under Civil Wars) and most recently updated with Allansson, et al. 2017 (cited under Civil Wars). The UCDP/PRIO armed conflict data set is now the basis for a family of data sets related to armed conflicts, especially internal armed conflicts and structured for quantitative analysis. The author of Kreutz 2010 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) developed the Conflict Termination Dataset, while the authors of Högbladh, et al. 2011 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) have provided data on external support to conflict actors. Högbladh 2011 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) also provides data on the contents of peace agreements in civil wars. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program has also expanded to cover other “types” of violent interaction. Eck and Hultman 2007 records episodes of violence against civilians, and Sundberg, et al. 2012 identifies episodes of “nonstate” armed conflicts. In addition, a number of projects build on the foundational UCDP data set (and indeed the COW data set and others) and unpack additional dimensions of armed conflicts. Cohen and Nordås 2014 provides data on sexual violence in civil wars, DeRouen and Bercovitch 2012 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) records mediation activities in civil wars, Croicu and Sundberg 2012 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) identifies conflict locations, and Chenoweth and Stephan 2011 (cited under Civil Wars) and Chenoweth and Lewis 2013 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) focus on the use of violent and nonviolent strategies. Information on the “technologies” with which civil wars are fought can be found in Kalyvas and Balcells 2010 (cited under Conflict Dynamics). Lacina and Gleditsch 2005 (cited under Conflict Dynamics) and Allansson, et al. 2017 (cited under Civil Wars) track the severity of civil wars.

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