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The Consolidated List of Wars (CoLoW) emanated from a dataset, which was established in the context of the German Foundation for Peace Research (Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung - DSF) funded project "Wandel der Gewaltformen im internationalen System 1946 – 2006 [Changes in forms of violence in the international system 1946-2006]”. The project and the associated data set reflected the growing consensus in conflict research that the traditional state-centered conception of war is no longer sufficient to capture a large number of armed conflicts worldwide. In light of this observation the research project developed a new typology of war, which takes into account both the political status of the actors and territorial aspects. This typology includes four types of war:

  1. inter-state wars (between at least two sovereign states),
  2. extra-state wars (between a state and one or more non-state groups outside its territorial boundaries),
  3. intra-state wars (between a government and one or more non-state parties within the boundaries of an internationally recognized state), and
  4. sub-state wars (between mostly non-state actors within or across borders).

The proposed integration of a sub-state war category reflects the debate about the changing patterns of warfare in the post-Second World War period and follows the underlying rule that a classification of war is best arranged according to the political status of the protagonists. In consequence, wars between private armed groups can be made accessible for both empirical and systematic analyses (concerning their occurrence, duration, and correlates) and for comparative purposes (in relation, for example, to intra-state and inter-state wars). In addition, the dataset included military interventions by external state actors.

The above mentioned dataset was included in the Consolidated List of Wars (CoLoW), which is updated and supplemented annually. Because of developments in the major international war and conflict data projects, which added sub-state war data to their records (UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset, COW Non-State War Data), and the methodological and conceptual focus on event data (see EDACS) the continuation of CoLoW as an independent dataset was suspended. No additional value to the internationally established and better equipped projects could be generated.

The future objective of the Consolidated List of Wars (CoLoW) is to compare the varying data worlds of the main war and conflict data projects und to critically reflect their data and data gathering strategies. This way we hope to provide a basis for users of these datasets to better assess the advantages and disadvantages of the respective data and the kind of analysis they can be fruitfully used for. Furthermore, we hope the initiated debates can contribute to further improve the quality of the data.