Semantic Variations on Richardson’s Armaments Dynamics

  • Christian Schmidt
Part of the International Economic Association Series book series (IEA)


The international scientific community is preparing to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the death of L. F. Richardson who divided his scientific activities between research into mathematical polymology (war studies) and meteorology. The arms race model which won him posthumous popularity among English-speaking specialists was first formulated in 19191 barely following the equally famous equations for aerial combat devised by another British pioneer in mathematical polymology, L. F. Lanchester.2 Later on, Richardson restated the various properties of his model in detail on several occasions.3 Today one can say that practically all quantitative studies of the arms race at least mention the Richardson model, so much so that two authors of a recent review of the contemporary literature on the subject even made it a point of honour to be the first not to reproduce the Richardson equations.4 This continuing reference to the Richardson system is all the harder to understand in that several theoretical criticisms, many on decisive points, have been formulated against it.5 Furthermore, most of the empirical tests to which it has been subjected during the present period have proved disappointing.6 Empirical studies over recent years seem to establish:
  1. (1)

    That far from being the rule, Richardson behaviour seems rather to be the exception in the recent international dynamics of armaments.7

  2. (2)

    That the explanatory power of the internal models, drawing on bureaucratic analyses generally proves superior to that of international interactional models like Richardson’s to take account of the dynamics of military spending at least in the case of the world’s main military powers and the two largest in particular.8



Source Model Conflict Resolution Image Model American Political Science Review Military Expenditure 
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Copyright information

© International Economic Association 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Universite de Paris IX DauphineCASCIFrance

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