The Geography of Civil War

Journal article

Buhaug, Halvard & Scott Gates (2002) The Geography of Civil War, Journal of Peace Research 39 (4): 417–433.


Geographical factors play a critical role in determining how a civil war is fought and who will prevail. Drawing on the PRIO/Uppsala Armed Conflict dataset covering the period 1946-2000, the authors have determined the location of all battle-zones for all civil wars in this time period, thereby identifying the geographic extent and the center point of each conflict. Using ordinary least squares (OLS) and three-stage least squares (3SLS) estimation techniques, factors are analyzed that determine the scope of the conflict (area of the conflict zone) and the location of the conflict relative to the capital. It is found that in addition to geographical factors such as the total land area of the country, scope is strongly shaped by such factors as the adjacencies of a border of a neighboring country, the incidence of natural resources in the conflict zone, and the duration of the conflict. The distance of the conflict zone from the capital is influenced by the scope of the conflict, the size of the country, whether or not the objective of the rebels is to secede, and whether or not the rebel group has a religious or ethnic identity. Also, evidence is found of an endogenous relationship between scope and location.

(Reprinted in Diehl, Paul F., ed., 2005. War, vol. 3. London: Sage.

An error has occurred. This application may no longer respond until reloaded. Reload 🗙