Have great wars become less violent over time, and is there something we might identify as the long peace? We investigate statistical versions of such questions, by examining the number of battle-deaths in the Correlates of War dataset, with 95 interstate wars from 1816 to 2007. Previous research has found this series of wars to be stationary, with no apparent change over time. We develop a framework to find and assess a change-point in this battle-deaths series. Our change-point methodology takes into consideration the power law distribution of the data, models the full battle-deaths distribution, as opposed to focusing merely on the extreme tail, and evaluates the uncertainty in the estimation. Using this framework, we find evidence that the series has not been as stationary as past research has indicated. Our statistical sightings of better angels indicate that 1950 represents the most likely change-point in the battle-deaths series – the point in time where the battle-deaths distribution might have changed for the better.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Nils Lid Hjort & Celine Marie Løken Cunen (2020) Statistical sightings of better angels: Analysing the distribution of battle-deaths in interstate conflict over time, Journal of Peace Research 57 (2): 221–234.