Matthew Jackson and Stephen Nei

Add modern history to the list of fields that can benefit from a network theory approach. A recent article in MIT Technology Review highlights SFI External Professor Matthew Jackson’s model of military and trade networks since 1820, a game-theoretical study of international alliances.

The model, created by Jackson and collaborator Stephen Nei, combines network theory with game theory to determine whether countries’ military and trade alliances can provide stability against the threat of war. The model suggests that the rapid increase in trade alliances since the 1960’s increased the stability of international networks and correlated with a 10-fold decrease in average number of wars per year between country pairs. The authors also find that while modern networks are far more stable thanks to their increased number of trade alliances, no network of interconnected nations is wholly immune to war.

Viewing historical events through a network lens allows for a more relational and complex understanding of history than can be obtained from studying events alone, the authors say. The article notes that in recent years, “there has been a growing understanding that a complex network of links, alliances, trade agreements, and so on play a hugely important role in creating an environment in which conflict (or peace) can spread.”

Read the article on the MIT Technology Review website (October 13, 2014)

Read the paper on (October 5, 2014)