285 Armed Forces At War 1945-2004


The size of territories on this map represent the number of military-person-years armed forces have been at war, between 1945 and 2004. What is counted is the number of armed forces personnel in each territory each year if that territory has been at war for all or part of that year, if that territory has not been at war they are not counted. A large area would result from a combination of a territory having large armed forces and being at war for many years. On average each year, between 1945 and 2004, the territories at war had 12 million armed forces personnel, in effect “at war”.

The definition of a war or armed conflict here, is as used in Dan Smith and Ane Braein’s ‘The Atlas of War and Peace’ (2003, p.115, one of the data sources for this map). It includes all of the following: “open armed conflict, at least two parties, centrally organized fighters and fighting, contestation over political power and / or the control of territory, continuity between clashes, a minimum of 25 battle deaths in a 12 month period in the context of a total death toll of at least several hundred.” The notes that follow this definition are paraphrased below:

The terms ‘armed conflict’ and ‘war’ are used interchangeably; the threshold of a minimum of 25 deaths allows for the nature of modern wars which may include long periods of relative inactivity. It should be noted that the word ‘state’ is absent from this definition – many definitions of war require one of the parties to be recognised as a state by the United Nations. However the authors of ‘The Atlas of War and Peace’ found definition in terms of state involvement to be an arbitrary definition.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 2004) defines armed forces as “total Strategic, land, naval, air, command, administrative and support forces. Also included are paramilitary forces such as the gendarmerie, customs service and border guard, if these are trained in military tactics.”

The UNDP definition was sourced from the section on ‘Technical notes and definitions’ of the 2004 Human Development Report, which was accessed from the site below in November, 2004:


The size of the armed forces in each territory in 1985 is used as the nominal size for the whole period. It is estimated that in 1985 there were 29 million people employed in all the armed forces around the world. The period covered is 1945 to 2004. On average each year there were 12 million armed forces personnel employed in territories that had been at war for all or part of that year. 49 territories were never at war throughout that period and so have no area on the map.

Data sources

There were three sources for the data used here, which together cover all the years in the period of 1945 to 2004. These sources are as follows:

1. Data for wars between years 1945-1982 are from a table in Michael Kidron and Dan Smith's. 1983. 'The War Atlas: Armed conflict - Armed peace'. Pan Books, London . That table is found in an appendix in the Atlas entitled 'The International Military Order'. Note that where the data refer to states that no longer exist, the new territories that have been formed within their borders have been given the figures for those former states.

2. Data for the years 1983-1989 was derived from the Armed Conflicts 1946-2004 listings. The most recent version of these listings can be found at: http://www.prio.no/cwp/armedconflict/. This is an update of the dataset of Armed Conflict 1946–2001 as described in the paper detailed below. All conflicts that are counted as minor or above are used to show ‘war’ on this map – this is in-keeping with the definition used by Dan Smith and Ane Braein. A minor armed conflict is defined as at least 25 battle-related deaths in a year and fewer than 1,000 battle-related deaths during the course of the conflict. An intermediate armed conflict is defined as resulting in at least 25 but fewer than 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year and an accumulated total of more than 1,000 deaths. A war is defined as at least 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year. For more information see:

Nils Petter Gleditsch, Peter Wallensteen, Mikael Eriksson, Margareta Sollenberg & Håvard Strand, 2002. ‘Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset’, Journal of Peace Research 39(5): 615–637.

3. Data for wars in the years 1990-2004 (but including data for wars that began in other periods and continued into this period) are derived from the 'Table of Wars 1990-2004', which is found on pages 116-121 of Dan Smith and Ane Braein's 2005 publication of 'The Atlas of War and Peace'. Earthscan, London . The data from this source also gives the status of wars in November 2004. In our data: 1 = war in that year; 0 = no war; ... = no data / unsure.

Note that in 1991 Iraq was at war with Kuwait – and Kuwait was “supported” by the Multinational Coalition comprising troops from: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Syria, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States. Had all these territories been deemed to have been at war that year then several territories that otherwise have no war record would have one. Similarly, if the 1962 minor conflict between the United Kingdom and the North Kalimantan Liberation Army in North Borneo had been included, Brunei would not be considered to be war-free.

Click here to view detailed data source references

The quotation used to accompany this map, is sourced from the writer Slavenka Drakulic . It is sourced from an article that she wrote for ‘The Nation’, entitled 'We Are All Albanians', and published on 7 th June 1999 . A longer version of this quotation reads: “War goes deeper than bombardment, and the more we pretend it doesn't concern us, the more it invades us. War is destructive of the human soul. It corrodes human beings, bringing out things we didn't know about ourselves.” This was sourced from the webpage below in December 2006:


Excel sheets

Below is an explanation of each of the columns in the excel file:

Column A = Unique numerical territory (see 001).

Column B = Region and territory names (see 001).

Column C = Region code (see 001).

Column D = The ISO 3 code, or ISO ALPHA-3 (see 001).

Column E = Proportion of years when at war for all or part of the year, by size of armed forces in thousands for the period 1945-2004. This is calculated by multiplying the total number of years spent at war between 1945 and 2004 (inclusive) (which is shown on the source data sheet) by the number of people in the armed forces of that territory in thousands (Column G), which is then divided by 60 to give the correct proportion. (E = total years at war * G / 60).

Column F = Proportion of years when at war for all or part of the year, by number of armed forces personnel per thousand people living in that territory, for the period 1945-2004. This is calculated by dividing the number of armed forces years spent at war in a single year in thousands (Column E) by the population of a territory in millions in 2002. (F = E / H).

Column G = Armed forces in thousands of people, in 1985. For data source see technical notes 283 ‘Armed Forces 1985’.

Column H = Population in millions, for year 2002. For source data and derived estimates see 002, ‘Total Population’.