The ICOW Territorial Claims Data Set

The territorial claims data set follows the general guidelines on the ICOW home page.

A territorial claim is defined as explicit contention between two or more nation-states claiming sovereignty over a specific piece of territory. Official government representatives (i.e., individuals who are authorized to make or state foreign policy positions for their governments) must make explicit statements claiming sovereignty over the same territory.

Please note that the ICOW Project and its directors do not take or endorse official positions on any territorial claims. Our goal is to identify cases where nation-states have disagreed over specific issues in the modern era, as well as measuring what made those issues valuable to them and studying how they chose to manage or settle those issues. Inclusion/exclusion of specific cases, and coding of details related to those cases, follows strict guidelines presented in the project's coding manuals (which are available below).

Argentine Malvinas road sign Treaty of Trianon map Airstrip on Spratly island
(1) an Argentine road sign claiming the Falkland/Malvinas islands;
(2) a map of Hungary's territorial losses under the post-WWI Treaty of Trianon;
(3) an airstrip occupying almost an entire island in the Spratly chain.

Measuring Claim Salience

The salience of territorial claims is measured by a 0-12 index, which includes up to six points each for the claim's challenger and target states (one point each for six indicators of salience). For more details see the Hensel and Mitchell GeoJournal article listed below in the data set references section of this page. Three of these indicators cover tangible aspects of territorial claim salience:

The remaining three indicators cover intangible aspects of claim salience, and are coded separately for each claimant:

Project Participants

Current Status

Data on territorial claims, claim salience, and claim militarization for the whole world was released in 2013. Data on peaceful settlement attempts over territorial claims has been released for the Western Hemisphere and Northern/Western Europe for the years 1816-2001; a draft of peaceful settlements in the remainder of the world has been collected, and will be released as soon as possible after it can be verified and cleaned. The following totals are based on the provisional data for the entire world:

RegionStatusNumber of Claims
Western Hemisphere All data collection completed (1816-2001) 82 claimed territories
(128 dyadic claims/19 ongoing)
Europe Main data collection completed (1816-2001),
including West European peaceful settlement attempts;
East European peaceful attempts nearly completed
96 claimed territories
(238 dyadic claims/10 ongoing)
Africa Main data collection completed (1816-2001),
peaceful settlement attempt research underway
76 claimed territories
(161 dyadic claims/22 ongoing)
Middle East Main data collection completed (1816-2001),
peaceful settlement attempts nearly completed
42 claimed territories
(95 dyadic claims/5 ongoing)
Asia and Oceania Main data collection completed (1816-2001),
peaceful settlement attempt research underway
76 claimed territories
(215 dyadic claims/53 ongoing)
Entire world   372 claimed territories
(837 dyadic claims/109 ongoing)

Beginning in 2019, we have started publishing quarterly reviews of events occurring in any of the four current ICOW issue types -- territorial, river, maritime, or identity claims -- during three-month periods. These reviews describe such events as the beginning of new claims, the occurrence of military or other provocations related to the issue, and attempts to manage or settle the issues peacefully. Besides posting each quarterly review at the above link, we also offer a DuckDuckGo custom search that allows users to search for reviews that contain such terms as names of territories, countries, or leaders. (For now, this is limited to ICOW's quarterly reviews of news over territorial, river, maritime, or identity claims, covering events since the beginning of 2019. In the future, we plan to expand this search to include access to summary web pages for each of the more than 1200 claims identified by the ICOW project, which will be created as part of the next external grant that the ICOW project receives.)

Descriptive Details

Version 1.1 of the full ICOW Territorial Claims data set -- the version that includes settlement attempts, and is not yet available for the entire world -- includes claims to a total of 122 distinct territories. Some of these territories are claimed by multiple claimants at various points in time or are settled temporarily only to see renewed claims later (perhaps by a state that lost the territory earlier and later seeks to recover it), so these claims include 191 dyadic claims that together cover 6052 dyad-years. These claims have been managed through 205 militarized interstate disputes and 1004 peaceful settlement attempts (including bilateral negotiations, non-binding third party activities like mediation or good offices, and binding third party activities like arbitration and adjudication).

Data Set References

The official article of record for this data set is Frederick, Hensel, and Macaulay's 2017 JPR article, which describes and summarizes the complete data set for the entire world, 1816-2001:

A few other articles of historical value in the evolution of this data set:

Download the Coding Manuals and Data

All ICOW data sets may be downloaded freely, but we request several professional courtesies from users:

Coding Manuals

The following links provide access to the coding manuals and other useful information:


Please note that this, like all ICOW data sets, uses the list of country codes in the COW interstate system. Please see that list for help in identifying which countries were involved in the events included in this data set, or for any questions about when each country was considered a sovereign, recognized state.

Contact Information

The ICOW Territorial Claims data set is collected and maintained by Paul Hensel at the University of North Texas. Please contact him with any questions about the data set:
Last updated: 21 November 2019
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