Legacies of Conflict

Kevin Lewis

May 29, 2023

Window of Opportunity: War and the Origins of Parliament
Gary Cox, Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 


Two important puzzles characterize the development of pre-modern Eurasian polities. First, most rulers convened councils of nobles, but only European monarchs expanded them to create parliaments. Second, war was common throughout Eurasia, but only in Europe did it correlate with the formation of parliaments. We advance a new argument about the emergence of parliaments that accounts for both stylized facts while integrating the literature highlighting the rulers' need to finance wars with that emphasizing the importance of the medieval communal revolution. Using novel data, we document a ‘no communes, no parliaments’ rule: monarchs established parliaments only after they had fostered the creation of self-governing towns (aka communes). We also show that war was a significant predictor of parliamentary births across medieval Europe – but only during a window of opportunity that opened after a polity had experienced the communal revolution.

Wisdom Is Welcome Wherever It Comes From: War, Diffusion, and State Formation in Scandinavia
Eric Grynaviski & Sverrir Steinsson
International Organization, Spring 2023, Pages 294-323 


Prominent theories of state formation hold that states formed because of warfare and competition on the one hand, or the diffusion of organizational templates and practices through learning and emulation on the other. We propose that the two strands of theory can be linked to more accurately account for mechanisms of state formation. War, we argue, is an important source of social diffusion. War establishes contacts between political elites across borders, generates migratory flows, and establishes new economic networks. We examine the validity of the theory through a comparative case study of Nordic political units from the dawn of the Viking Age to the end of the High Middle Ages (CE 800–1300), finding that raids, settlements, and conquests by Norwegian and Danish rulers in England, Europe's most advanced kingdom, set in motion state formation processes in Norway and Denmark. In these cases, the winners emulated the losers.

Cultural threat perceptions predict violent extremism via need for cognitive closure
Milan Obaidi et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 May 2023 


Understanding the psychological processes that drive violent extremism is a pressing global issue. Across six studies, we demonstrate that perceived cultural threats lead to violent extremism because they increase people’s need for cognitive closure (NFC). In general population samples (from Denmark, Afghanistan, Pakistan, France, and an international sample) and a sample of former Mujahideen in Afghanistan, single-level and multilevel mediation analyses revealed that NFC mediated the association between perceived cultural threats and violent extremist outcomes. Further, in comparisons between the sample of former Afghan Mujahideen and the general population sample from Afghanistan following the known-group paradigm, the former Mujahideen scored significantly higher on cultural threat, NFC, and violent extremist outcomes. Moreover, the proposed model successfully differentiated former Afghan Mujahideen participants from the general Afghan participants. Next, two preregistered experiments provided causal support for the model. Experimentally manipulating the predictor (cultural threat) in Pakistan led to higher scores on the mediator (NFC) and dependent variables (violent extremist outcomes). Finally, an experiment conducted in France demonstrated the causal effect of the mediator (NFC) on violent extremist outcomes. Two internal meta-analyses using state-of-the-art methods (i.e., meta-analytic structural equation modeling and pooled indirect effects analyses) further demonstrated the robustness of our results across the different extremist outcomes, designs, populations, and settings. Cultural threat perceptions seem to drive violent extremism by eliciting a need for cognitive closure.

Twitter activism: Understanding the Twittersphere as the foremost community for activism and dragging in Nigeria
Vincent Obia
New Media & Society, forthcoming 


This article appraises the use of Twitter as the principal platform for activism in Nigeria to underscore why it is preferred above all others when it comes to the formation and operation of activist communities. Drawing from reflexive thematic analysis of interviews (n = 15), I demonstrate that four reasons explain why the Twittersphere has become the central platform for activism in Nigeria. These include the use of Twitter for activism, justice, and dragging; the functional uses made possible by Twitter’s architecture; twitter as a platform for young elite influence; and the perception of Twitter as a leveller. I expand on what these themes mean for Twitter activism and social media regulation, further arguing that research into digital activism and communities should start to recognise Twitter’s centrality as a tool of choice in the formation, coordination, and amplification of activist voices.

Rebel Leader Age and the Outcomes of Civil Wars
Daniel Silverman, Benjamin Acosta & Reyko Huang
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming 


What determines the outcomes of civil wars? Existing literature highlights numerous factors at the systemic, state, and organizational levels of analysis. Yet there is little research on the attributes of rebel leaders in shaping war outcomes despite ample theories of their importance in steering their organizations. This article focuses on rebel leaders’ age as one key driver of their behavior. Applying insights from developmental psychology to the context of armed rebellion, we argue that young rebel leaders are the most likely to suffer military defeats, middle-aged leaders to win military victories, and elderly ones to reach negotiated settlements. We use a mixed-methods strategy to substantiate our claims, combining case studies of George Washington and Yasser Arafat with new data from the Rebel Organization Leaders (ROLE) database. Our findings help advance the study of non-state violent leaders in world politics while illuminating neglected sources of risk and opportunity for peace practitioners.

Women’s Political Representation in African Rebel Parties
Elizabeth Brannon
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 


Across Africa, women’s political representation is twice as high in postconflict states as it is in non-conflict-afflicted states. Scholars have attributed gains to changing gender norms, international pressure, and local women’s movements. However, these factors do not explain variance in women’s representation across political parties. This article asks how the conflict legacies of political parties influence these trends, by analyzing patterns of women’s political representation in rebel groups that transition into political parties. The article argues that these parties have unique incentives to promote women’s representation. Novel data on women’s candidacy and electoral success at the party level in postconflict Africa from 1970 to 2020 are presented. Findings suggest that rebel parties run and elect significantly more women than other political parties. These results are consistent across contexts, including varying conflict outcomes. These findings are relevant to understanding women’s postconflict political representation and the role of women in rebel parties.


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