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Revolutionary Wars, Conservative Peace: Ideological Threats and Military Competition During the 'Great Transformation', 1789-1870

Thursday March 15, 2012, from 13:00 to 15:00
Room Fred Halliday - IBEI (1st Floor)
Research seminar
How can we explain the paradoxical trends in military conflict during the 1789-1870 period, where a sudden and unprecedented explosion in the frequency and intensity of war in the European state system during 1789-1815 was immediately followed by an equally unusual peaceful episode during 1815-1870? In order to answer this question, I offer a theory that explores the relationship between ideological challenges that the governing elites face and the severity of the security dilemma among states. Ideological threats to regime survival have different impacts on the trends in interstate war depending on whether they emanate primarily from interstate actors or from domestic challengers. When severe ideological threats to regime survival emanate from other states, the result will be an acute security dilemma among the relevant parties and both the risk of conflict and the cost of conflict will be significantly high. When states face similar domestic ideological threats to regime survival, the security dilemma will be alleviated to a large extent, decreasing the likelihood and the intensity of war. The theory is then utilized to explain the puzzle at hand: the war-proneness of 1789-1815 followed from the ideological threats that the Revolutionary French elites and the monarchs of the Old Regime posed towards each other and the peacefulness of the subsequent episode was a result of the shared ideological threats that monarchs of Europe faced in their domestic politics.