The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Weidmann, Nils; Doreen Kuse & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2010) The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset, International Interactions 36(1): 86–106.

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We describe CShapes, a new dataset that provides historical maps of state boundaries and capitals in the post-World War II period. The dataset is coded according to both the Correlates of War and the Gleditsch and Ward (1999) state lists, and is therefore compatible with a great number of existing databases in the discipline. Provided in a geographic data format, CShapes can be used directly with standard GIS software, allowing a wide range of spatial computations. In addition, we supply a CShapes package for the R statistical toolkit. This package enables researchers without GIS skills to perform various useful operations on the GIS maps. The paper introduces the CShapes dataset and structure and gives three examples of how to use CShapes in political science research. First, we show how results from quantitative analysis can be depicted intuitively as a map. The second application gives an example of computing indicators on the CShapes maps, which can then be used in statistical tests. Third, we illustrate the use of CShapes for generating different weights matrices in spatial statistical applications. All the examples can be replicated using the freely available R package and do not require specialized GIS skills. The dataset is available for download from the CShapes website (
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