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The Cart and the Horse Redux: The Timing of Border Settlement and Joint Democracy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 December 2016


Do democratic dyads handle their disputes more peacefully than non-democratic dyads, or have they cleared the most contentious issues (that is, unsettled borders) off their foreign policy agenda before becoming democratic? This study compares the conflicting answers of the democratic peace and the territorial peace and examines the empirical record to see which is more accurate. It finds that almost all contiguous dyads settle their borders before they become joint democracies. Furthermore, the majority of non-contiguous dyad members also settle their borders with all neighboring states before their non-contiguous dyad becomes jointly democratic. Such findings are consistent with the theoretical expectations of the territorial peace, rather than the democratic peace. They also weaken a core argument of the democratic peace, for this analysis finds that one reason democratic dyads may handle their disputes more peacefully than non-democratic dyads is not because of their institutions or norms, but rather because they have dispensed with the disputes most likely to involve the use of military force prior to becoming democratic.

© Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Illinois (email: The title for this article derives from one published by William Thompson in International Organization in 1996. We thank Jeff Berejikian, Chad Clay, Paul Diehl, Emilia Powell, Toby Rider, the editors and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback, as well as Patrick Howell and Cody Knapp for their research assistance. Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at


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