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History of Violence




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


The use of violence for political ends has a long history. With the increased democratization of society in the nineteenth century violence should no longer have been necessary to obtain political ends. There are nevertheless many organisations in modern societies that have tried to obtain their objectives in that manner. Within Europe one could think in recent decades of nationalist movements striving for local independence such as the Basque ETA and the Irish IRA, but also of social-revolutionary groups like the Red Brigades or the Baader-Meinhof Group and most recently religiously motivated terrorists.

This course will attempt to formulate hypotheses on the phenomenon of political violence on basis of some theoretical literature regarding questions such as: Under which conditions do people begin to use force as a means to obtain political objectives? How do revolutionary organizations manage to obtain support and how do they try to achieve their objectives? How do governments react to their actions? Etc. On basis of these general introductions each student will have to test some of the hypotheses by applying them to a revolutionary organisation.

Course Objectives

  • Gaining insight into the concepts of revolution and political violence, and the theoretical discussion concerning this.

  • The ability to formulate testable research question informed by a knowledge of theory.

  • The ability to do research on basis of secondary literature and original source material, to present the work orally and write an essay reporting on individual research and its results.

Mode of Instruction

The class meets two times a week, with Tuesday sessions devoted to an introduction of the week’s theme based on literature introduced by assigned students and supported by their written reports. The Friday sessions are reserved for student-led discussion on basis of a proposition, supported by other literature.

You will also have an opportunity to select and research a topic of particular interest to you in the general field of political violence. In consultation with the instructor, you will formulate a specific question on your topic of choice, which you will address in a final essay.


Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Presentations
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Short essay (approx. 600 words)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Final research essay (approx. 4000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8 Friday at 17.00


There is no set textbook for the course. Assigned readings will be made available on or through BlackBoard, but students should expect to conduct independent research throughout this 300-level course.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

After a theoretical introduction the course will treat the history of political violence through a series of themes:

Week 1: Introduction to theories on revolutionary violence
Week 2: History of political violence: revolution and terrorism
Week 3: Motivation
Week 4: Mobilisation
Week 5: Strategy
Week 6: State response, theory
Week 7: State response, practice

Preparation for first session