Chris Blattman

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Are female politicians less warlike than men? Some evidence from European queens



A large scholarship claims that states led by women are less conflictual than states led by men. However, it is theoretically unclear why female leaders would favor more conciliatory war policies. And, it is empirically challenging to identify the effect of female rule, since women may gain power disproportionately during periods of peace.

We surmount this challenge by exploiting features of hereditary succession in European polities over the 15th-20th centuries. In this context, women were more likely to acquire power if the previous monarch lacked a male first-born child, or had a sister who could follow as successor.

Using these factors as instruments for female rule, we find that queenly reigns participated more in inter-state conflicts, without experiencing more internal conflict. Moreover, the tendency of queens to participate as conflict aggressors varied based on marital status.

Among married monarchs, queens were more likely to participate as attackers than kings. Among unmarried monarchs, queens were more likely to be attacked than kings. These results are consistent with an account in which queens relied on their spouses to manage state affairs, enabling them to pursue more aggressive war policies. Kings, on the other hand, were less inclined to utilize a similar division of labor.

This asymmetry in how queens relied on male spouses and kings relied on female spouses strengthened the relative capacity of queenly reigns, facilitating their greater participation in warfare.

A new paper, Queens, by Oeindrila Dube and S.P. Harish.

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  2. The process of war is a complex phenomenon. Can a woman leader be warlike? Yes. Can female soldiers kill masses of other men, women? What about unarmed women and children? That’s the big question. Soldiers are the ones who do the fighting, killing, and dying. And the living with physical and mental scars afterwards. If only women could participate in war from the presidents, generals to the lowest potato peeling grunt I don’t think wars would last very long. After seeing the first pile of dead pregnant women and infants the masses of soldiers would scream for some other way to solve political differences. Sure there would be a few outliers but the majority would lose any enthusiasm for killing. Even modern male centered armies need enormous discipline training and psychological conditioning to do the ugly business. Push button warfare with drones and missiles helps since you don’t have to see the “enemy” suffer. But an all female military could not maintain the critical esprit de corps once the pictures of homeless people and burning homes came in.

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