British Journal of Political Science


Dangerous Neighbours, Regional Territorial Conflict and the Democratic Peace

Douglas M. Gibler and Alex Braithwaite *


The likelihood of conflict and the observation of joint democracy tend to cluster regionally. This article tests the argument that these clusters can be explained by regional variations in the stability of international borders using a new dataset of territorial dispute hot spots from 1960–1998. These hot spots identify spatial and temporal correlations in the territorial dispute data and therefore serve as close proxies for regional or neighbourhood instability. The addition of these hot spots also eliminates a common form of omitted variable bias – the spatial clustering of conflict – in international conflict models. These results confirm that joint democracy is only statistically significant as a predictor of fatal militarized interstate disputes in more peaceful neighbourhoods once territorial hot spots are jointly estimated. The interaction between joint democracy and regional instability confirms that the effects of regime type on continued conflict apply mostly to dyads in peaceful regions.

(Online publication October 31 2012)


*  Douglas Gibler is Professor of Political Science and Arts and Sciences Leadership Board Fellow, Department of Political Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (email:; Alex Braithwaite is Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University College, London (email: We are grateful to Kristian Gleditsch and to three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments, which improved this article greatly. Gibler also thanks the HF Guggenheim Foundation for their generous research support of the Bordering on Peace project during the completion of part of this manuscript. Replication data are available at