Skip main navigation

Bethany Lacina on the PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset

Professor Spagat interviews Bethany Lacina about the PRIO Battle Deaths database, and its tremendous documentation which is in the public domain.

In this clip I interview Bethany Lacina who is the James P. Wilmot assistant professor of political science at the University of Rochester. We talk about the PRIO Battle Death Dataset which is the product of a major effort, spearheaded by Bethany, to gather together the best possible estimates of battle deaths for every war in the world after World War 2.

Here I underline a few points from this conversation that are particularly relevant to our course.

  1. The project made strenuous efforts to include only violent deaths. In particular, excess deaths were excluded, mainly because reliable excess death information is rarely available.

  2. The project only included a subset of violent deaths which are designated as “battle deaths”. Broadly speaking this means that killings of civilians are only included when these killings occur within the context of battles between organised armed groups. Again, the reason for this restriction is to limit the data to a core of violence forms that have been measured with relative consistency over many decades.

  3. The project evaluates the quality of all battle-death information the researchers can find and then makes judgments on coding decisions. Some of this information comes from casualty recording projects of the sort we covered in Week 1. Some information comes from sample survey and capture-recapture estimates of the sort we covered in Week 2. Other information comes from other procedures such as informed guesstimates of historians or war participants.

Upon my request Bethany provided the following bio:

Bethany Lacina is an assistant professor at the University of Rochester Department of Political Science. She received her PhD in political science from Stanford University. She recently published Rival Claims: Ethnic Violence and Territorial Autonomy under Indian Federalism with the University of Michigan. Her work cataloging the costs of war can be found through the PRIO Battle Deaths Data project.

This article is from the free online

Accounting for Death in War: Separating Fact from Fiction

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now