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History of Violence




Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 200/300-level courses.


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

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

This course will be taught in a series of seminars. After a general introduction each Thursday session will discuss the prescribed literature concerning the theme of the week (see General Objectives above). In the Monday meetings a proposition on the theme of the week will be discussed. For presentational purposes the students will be divided in two groups. These groups will have to put forward one of its members to present an introduction at each Thursday meeting and another to defend or attack the proposition at the Monday meeting. So although the group will have to prepare together they will nominate a different student to present their preparation at each meeting. We will finish the course with a general discussion of the conclusions of the course.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

In-class participation: 20%
Presentations: 20%
Short essay (approx. 600 words): 20%
Final research essay (approx. 4000 words): 40%


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

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