Notes on the List of Wars Since 1900
By: Jon Brunberg | posted: 12/8/2013 7:06:24 PM
Since the list of wars since 1900 was updated this August, it has been linked to numerous times and is at this moment the most visited page on this website. In the wake of that publicity, for which I am indeed very grateful, I’m getting questions about my definitions and the data and it’s perhaps time to straight out a few question marks. Some readers have pointed out that specific conflicts are missing from the list, which perhaps deserves an explanation.
I’ve used Small and Singer’s fairly commonly used academic definition of war, which is based on the number of battle-related military and civilian deaths in one year (at least 1000). There have been numerous "minor armed conflicts" in the world since 1900 with a death toll that never exceeded that number and for this version of the list I decided to omit such “small wars” for several reasons, with the main being that the task to compile a coherent list of major wars was quite a complicated task in the first place (the observant reader may notice that there’s actually one exception which is very close to the 1000 battle-deaths limit). That’s why the armed conflicts in South Ossetia, Georgia (2008) and Azawad, Mali (2010) are not included even tough both gained a lot of media attention and may be considered geopolitically “important” by many.
I’m the first to admit that Small and Singer’s model has it’s limitations but it has become somewhat of a standard for many institutions that study armed conflicts, which means that the available data offers a high level of coherence over longer time periods. Furthermore, the focus on battle deaths makes it, in my opinion, relatively independent from such parameters as geopolitical or cultural importance. The main reason that I wish to avoid such parameters is simply because the global perspective is fundamental for my project. Another important reason is that the project is focused on commemoration of the dead, whoever they may be: friend or foe, soldier or civilian – and not primarily on geopolitical issues. I don’t exclude the possibility to include minor conflicts in the next update of the list but at the moment I’m more concerned with the question how to include coherent and standardized data for acts of genocide and one-sided violence into this list.
See also Correlates of War typology describing the development of Small and Singer´s dataset.