Evaluating the Causes of Revolutionary War

Open Access
Lewis, Charles Nicholas
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • James Honaker, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
  • Revolution
  • State Taskforce Dataset
  • Democracy
  • Autocracy
The multidimensional causes of revolutions like the Arab Spring have caused many leading social scientists to debate the origins and implications of revolution. Revolutions are a particularly interesting phenomenon to examine because unlike civil or ethnic wars they are not necessarily detrimental. Revolutions can often bring profound socio-political and philosophical changes to a country’s political structure. At the same time, however, policy makers need to understand the basic factors that make a country prone to revolution so that they can be adequately contained and managed when they occur. By analyzing data from the State Taskforce Dataset, I examine every revolution from 1955-1995 and find that there are generic factors that do make states more susceptible to revolution. Some of the most important predictors are a low GDP per capita, a large population, low political permissiveness, and a large number of citizens aged 15-29. Factors like agricultural landmass, literacy rates, and bordering conflicts have little to no effect when analyzed independently. A country’s democracy and autocracy scores matter significantly, but I demonstrate that revolution is least likely when either form of government is at its extreme. A country that is only a partial democracy or partial autocracy has a relatively high risk of revolution.