CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Leviathan Lost: The Impact of State Capacity on the Duration and Intensity of Civil Wars

Sarah Simon

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Jessica Stanton

Date of this Version: 01 April 2017



While wars between nations have declined over the past twenty years, intrastate conflicts are on the rise. Scholars are now examining the conditions under which civil war is likely to break out, to last longer, and to intensify, and the strength of the local government has emerged as a critical factor that could potentially mitigate the harms posed by civil wars. This thesis addresses two research questions: what is the impact of state strength on (1) conflict duration and (2) conflict intensity? To answer these research questions, I conduct several quantitative analyses of all internal conflicts occurring in the years 1960-2015, examining the relationship between state strength and conflict duration and battle deaths per year. This thesis ultimately finds that state strength, as proxied by military, fiscal, and bureaucratic capacities, is negatively correlated with conflict intensity but is positively correlated with conflict duration. This thesis concludes with the presentation of two case studies – the First Congo War and the Troubles of Northern Ireland – to illustrate how strong states may experience longer, but less bloody, civil wars.


International Relations | Other Political Science

Suggested Citation

Simon, Sarah, "Leviathan Lost: The Impact of State Capacity on the Duration and Intensity of Civil Wars" 01 April 2017. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 15 May 2017




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