The long history of sovereign debt and the associated enforcement problem have attracted researchers in many fields. In this paper, we survey empirical work by economists, historians, and political scientists. As we review the empirical literature, we emphasize parallel developments in the theory of sovereign debt. One major theme emerges. Although recent research has sought to balance theoretical and empirical considerations, there remains a gap between theories of sovereign debt and the data used to test them. We recommend a number of steps that researchers can take to improve the correspondence between theory and data.