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Alternative international systems? System structure and violent conflict in nineteenth-century West Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia

  • CHARLES BUTCHER and RYAN GRIFFITHS
Abstract

Were precolonial state systems different to the European model? If so, how did these state systems vary, and do variations in system structure influence the frequency of war? In this article we assess the structure off international systems in nineteenth-century West Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia using new data on precolonial states that corrects for some of the biases in the existing Correlates of War state system membership data. We develop a framework to capture variation in political order above and below the state, and explore the similarities and differences between these systems and the European system we know and study. We then assess how rates of inter- and intra-state war varied across these systems. Our results suggest: (1) It is the nature of hierarchy (not so much anarchy) that varies across these systems; and (2) inter-state wars are more frequent, but less intense, in systems composed of decentralised states.

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A previous version of this article was presented at the 2013 ISA Conference in San Francisco. We acknowledge financial support from the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, and the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. We thank Seva Gunitsky, Peter Katzenstein, Andrew Phillips, Jason Sharman, William Thompson, and several anonymous reviewers for their comments and assistance.

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1 Correlates of War Project, ‘State System Membership List, v2011’ (2011), available at: {http://correlatesofwar.org}.

2 The ISD identifies 96 states that were excluded in COW. Of these, twenty had populations over 500,000 and were presumably excluded because of insufficient diplomatic relations. Most of the remaining 76 appear to have been excluded because of both low diplomatic linkage and because they had populations less than 500,000. See Griffiths, Ryan and Butcher, Charles, ‘Introducing the International System(s) Dataset (ISD), 1816–2011’, International Interactions, 35:5 (2013), pp. 748768.

3 Griffiths and Butcher, ‘International System(s) Dataset (ISD)’.

4 Peter Brecke, ‘Violent conflicts 1400 A.D to the present in different regions of the world’, paper prepared for the 1999 Meeting of the Peace Science Society (International) on 8–10 October 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

5 Correlates of War (2011).

6 Gleditsch, Kristian and Ward, Michael, ‘A revised list of independent states since the congress of Vienna’, International Interactions, 25:4 (1999), pp. 393413; Bremer, Stuart and Ghosn, Faten, ‘Defining states: Reconsiderations and recommendations’, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 20:1 (2003), pp. 2141; Fazal, Tanisha M., State Death: the Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007). Another critique points to the size inconsistency between the pre-1920 and post-1920 periods. Whereas a 500,000-person threshold was used in the first period, small states can make the cut after 1920 provided they were members of either the League of Nations or the United Nations.

7 Singer, David and Small, Melvin, ‘The composition and status ordering of the international system: 1815–1940’, World Politics, 18:2 (1966), pp. 236–282, 246.

8 The ISD identifies 363 sovereign states between 1816 and 2011.

9 Both approaches are consistent with the international legal conception of states. The Montevideo Declaration on the Rights and Duties of States declares: ‘The State as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) Government, and; (4) capacity to enter into relations with other states.’

10 Gleditsch and Ward, ‘Revised list of independent states’; Bremer and Ghosn, ‘Defining states’; Fazal, State Death.

11 Spruyt, Hendrick, The Sovereign State and its Competitors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Buzan, Barry and Little, Richard, International Systems in World History: Remaking the Study of International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Nexon, Daniel, The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Hui, Victoria Tin-bor, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Kang, David, East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Phillips, Andrew, War, Religion, and Empire: The Transformation of International Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Ringmar, Erik, ‘Performing international systems: Two East-Asian alternatives to the Westphalian order’, International Organization, 66:1 (2012), pp. 126; Donnelly, Jack, ‘The elements of the structures of international systems’, International Organization, 66:4 (2012), pp. 609643.

12 Krasner, Stephen, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); Philpott, Daniel, Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shape Modern International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Glanville, Luke, ‘The myth of “traditional” sovereignty’, International Studies Quarterly, 57:1 (2013), pp. 79–90.

13 Vitalis, Robert, ‘The graceful and generous liberal gesture: Making racism invisible in American international relations’, Millennium, 29:2 (2010), pp. 331356; Grovogui, Siba, ‘Counterpoints and the imaginaries behind them’, International Political Sociology, 3 (2009), pp. 327350; Henderson, Errol, ‘Hidden in plain sight: Racism in international relations theory’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 26:1 (2013), pp. 71–92.

14 Little, Buzan and, International Systems, pp. 7789.

15 Like COW, we employ a general understanding of the state that can include city-states, empires, federations, nation-states, etc. For a discussion of this view see Tilly, Charles, Coercion, Capital, and European States: AD 990–1992 (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1990), p. 5.

16 It is also consistent with Fazal, State Death.

17 Gleditsch and Ward, ‘Revised list of independent states’.

18 Little, Buzan and, International Systems, p. 87.

19 Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1979); Buzan, Barry and Little, Richard, ‘Reconceptualising anarchy: Structural realism meets world history’, European Journal of International Relations, 2:4 (1996), pp. 403-8; Ruggie, John, Constructing the World Polity (New York: Taylor and Francis Group, 1998); Wendt, Alexander, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Lake, David, Hierarchy in International Relations (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009).

20 This is a subtle, but we believe, important modification on the Buzan and Little framework. Structural differentiation in their framework refers to differences in the internal organisation of states across a system. Buzan and Little do not provide close guidance on how to operationalise ‘political organisation’ and we pin it here to the extent to which the centre controls the sovereign functions measured above. Our measure of structural differentiation is best understood as the mean centralisation or decentralisation of political units in a system. From this measure we could also measure the variance, which is closer to the original Buzan and Little conception.

21 See, for example, Herbst, Jeffrey, States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

22 Little, Buzan and, International Systems, p. 80. This is quite similar to Ruggie’s notion of dynamic density (Ruggie, Constructing the World Polity).

23 Little, Buzan and, International Systems, p. 85.

24 Jervis, Robert, System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Gunitsky, Seva, ‘Complexity and theories of change in international politics’, International Theory, 5:1 (2013), pp. 3563.

25 See Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States; Hechter, Michael, Containing Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Scott, James, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). For an alternative view see Gerring, John, Ziblatt, Daniel, Van Gorp, Johan, and Arevalo, Julian, ‘An institutional theory of direct and indirect rule’, World Politics, 63:3 (2011), pp. 377433.

26 See Fearon, James, ‘Rationalist explanations for war’, International Organization, 49:3 (1995), pp. 379414; Powell, Robert, ‘Bargaining theory and international conflict’, Annual Review of Political Science, 5:1 (2002), pp. 1–30; Walter, Barbara, ‘Bargaining failures and Civil War’, Annual Review of Political Science, 12:1 (2009), pp. 243261.

27 There were 21 sovereign units in West Africa in existence at some point from 1816–1905 in the ISD. Ashanti (1816–96), Dahomey (1820–95), Kaarta (1816–54), Kanem-Bornu (1816–93), the Mandinka Empire (1878–98), Segou (1816–62), Tokolor (1848–93), Sokoto (1816–1903), Yatenga (Mossi) (1816–95), Cayor (1816–59), Saloum, (1816–87), Zinder (1851–89), Massina (1820–65), Fouta Djallon (1816–96), Fouta Toro (1816–88), Funj (1816–11), Benin (1816–92), Fante (1816–44, 1868–74), Oyo (1816–35), and Wadai (1816–1906).

28 Smith, Robert, Warfare and Diplomacy in Pre-Colonial West Africa (Suffolk: Methuen and Co., 1976).

29 Hiskett, Mervyn, ‘The nineteenth century jihads in West Africa’, in John Flint (ed.), Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 5, from 1790 to 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 134135, 151.

30 Smith, Robert, ‘Peace and palaver: International relations in pre-colonial West Africa’, The Journal of African History, 14:4 (1973), pp. 599–621.

31 Newbury, C. W., ‘Credit in early nineteenth century West African trade’, The Journal of African History, 13 (1972), pp. 8195.

32 Herbst, States and Power.

33 Hiskett, , ‘Jihads in West Africa 1976’, p. 139.

34 Zahan, Dominique, ‘The Mossi Kingdoms’, in Daryll Forde and P. M. Kaberry (eds), West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967).

35 Arhin, K. and Ki-Zerbo, J., ‘States and peoples of the Niger Bend and the Volta’, in J. F. Ade Ajayi (ed.), Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s (Paris: UNESCO, 1989), p. 667.

36 Batran, A., ‘The nineteenth century Islamic revolutions in West Africa’, in J. F. Ade Ajayi (ed.), Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s (Paris: UNESCO, 1989), pp. 541–2.

37 Person, Y., ‘States and peoples of Senegambia and Upper Guinea’, in J. F. Ade Ajayi (ed.), Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s (Paris: UNESCO, 1989), p. 646.

38 Herbst, States and Power.

39 These gradations of sovereignty also prevailed in the Islamic empires, which generally established thicker, more centralised bureaucratic structures for religious education and observance. Hiskett, ‘Jihads in West Africa 1976’, p. 149; Last, M., ‘The Sokoto Caliphate and Bornu’, in J. F. Ade Ajayi (ed.), Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s (Paris: UNESCO, 1989), p. 580.

40 Hiskett, , ‘Jihads in West Africa 1976’, pp. 153154, 167; Person, , ‘States and peoples’, p. 660.

41 We identify 18 states in the post-1816 period: Annam (1816–83), Myanmar (1816–85), Siam/Thailand (1816–2011), Kedah (1816–21), Perak (1816–74), Selangor (1816–75), Pahang (1816–74), Johore (1816–85), Terengganu (1816–62), Kelantan (1816–1909), Siak (1816–58), Minangkabau (1816–37), Palembang (1816–23), Benjermassin (1816–60), Karangasem (1816–94), Aceh (1816–74), Sulu (1816–51), and Brunei (1816–88).

42 One possible exception was the Chinese tribute system where regions as distant as Annam, Sulu, and Malacca would send missions to China. See Ringmar, ‘Performing international systems’. Whether this political relationship was truly one of subordination or simple convenience is difficult to say.

43 Scott, Art of Not Being Governed.

44 Ibid., pp. 58–9.

45 Herbst, , States and Power, p. 44.

46 Scott, , Art of Not Being Governed, p. 61.

47 Ricklefs, M. C., A History of Modern Indonesia, 1300 to the Present (Hong Kong: The Macmillan Press, 1981), p. 185.

48 Both the COW and ISD registers treat holding companies as extensions of their metropoles, not states.

49 We thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out to us.

50 The ISD identifies 28 independent states in South Asia (modern day India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan) that were in existence for some period from 1816–1905. These include Jaipur (1816–18), Jodhpur (1816–18), Udaipur (1816–17), Kotah (1816–18), Bikaner (1816–18), Bharatpur (1816–28), Sirohi (1816–23) Bhopal (1816–17), Cutch (1816), Sawantvadi (1816–38), Khaipur (1816–38), Kalat (1816–76), Swat (1816–96), Dir (1816–96), Kapurthala (1816–26), Bahawalpur (1816–38), Chamba (1816–46), Assam (1816–17), Bhutan (1816–1910), Sikkim (1816–90), Manipur (1816–91), Pune (1816–1917), Gwalior (1816–18), Nagpur (1816–18), Indore (1816–18), Sind (1816–39), Punjab (1816–46), and Nepal (1816–2011).

51 Imperial Gazetteer of India, 12 (1908), p. 424.

52 Ramusack, Barbara, The Indian Princes and Their States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 20.

53 Gordon, Stewart, The Marathas 1600–1818 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 180182.

54 Gordon, , The Marathas, p. 191.

55 Robb, Peter, A History of India (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 119–121.

56 Imperial Gazetteer of India, 8 (1908), p. 206; Imperial Gazetteer of India, 13 (1908), p. 386.

57 Ramusack, , The Indian Princes and Their States, p. 47.

58 Ibid., p. 41; Gordon, , The Marathas, p. 187.

59 Ramusack, , The Indian Princes and Their States, p. 41.

60 Gordon, , The Marathas, p. 186.

61 Ramusack, , The Indian Princes and Their States, p. 43.

62 Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States; Ramusack, , The Indian Princes and Their States, p. 42.

63 Gordon, , The Marathas, p, 182; Robb, , A History of India, pp. 101102.

64 For evidence that population density was higher in South Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa, but lower than in Europe, see Herbst, , States and Power, p. 16.

65 Gordon, , The Marathas, p. 184.

66 Fearon, ‘Rationalist explanations for war’.

67 Walter, Barbara, Reputation and Civil War: Why Separatist Conflicts Are So Violent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

68 Gartzke, Erik and Li, Quan, ‘War, peace, and the invisible hand: Positive political externalities of economic globalization’, International Studies Quarterly, 47 (2003), pp. 561586.

69 Walter, , ‘Bargaining failures and Civil War’, pp. 251252.

70 Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States.

71 Zhang, David, Brecke, Peter, Lee, Harry, He, Yuan-Qing, and Zhang, Jane, ‘Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104:49 (2007); Pinker, Steven, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011).

72 The analysis recorded above does not include states that intervened militarily in other civil wars. For the Brecke catalogue especially, it was difficult to code whether interveners were participating in a civil or inter-state war. Brecke, ‘Violent conflicts’.

73 Law, Robin, ‘West African cavalry state: The kingdom of Oyo’, The Journal of African History, 16:1 (1975), pp. 1–15. This may partly be the case because reliable information on the severity of these conflicts is often not available. It may also be because there has not been a register of states to focus data collection on these regions.

74 Thornton, John, Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500–1800 (London: University College London Press, 2002); Inikori, J. E., ‘The import of firearms into West Africa 1750–1807: a quantitative analysis’, The Journal of African History, 18:3 (1977), pp. 339–368; Richards, W. A., ‘The import of firearms into West Africa in the eighteenth century’, The Journal of African History, 21:1 (1980), pp. 43–59; Reid, Richard, Warfare in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

75 Scott, , The Art of Not Being Governed, p. 7.

76 Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States; Spruyt, The Sovereign State and its Competitors; Ruggie, Constructing the World Polity.

* A previous version of this article was presented at the 2013 ISA Conference in San Francisco. We acknowledge financial support from the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, and the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. We thank Seva Gunitsky, Peter Katzenstein, Andrew Phillips, Jason Sharman, William Thompson, and several anonymous reviewers for their comments and assistance.

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Review of International Studies
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