This article investigates the role of status considerations in the response of dominant powers to the rise of emergent states. Accordingly, the hypothesis explored is that dominant actors are prone to fear that they will lose their upper rank, and, due to this status anxiety, resist the efforts of emergent powers to match or surpass them. The article begins by explaining why political actors deem status important and puts forward a theory of status anxiety in world politics. The more pronounced is this anxiety across status dimensions (economic and military capabilities as well as prestige), the higher the likelihood of conflict. This argument is then tested against competing theories of dominant power behaviour in two cases: the relations between France and Britain from the 1740s to Napoleon and those between Britain and Germany from the 1880s to World War One.