State, Violence and Terrorism

image modified from aim of this final-year module is to develop a better understanding of terrorism and political violence by examining a variety of past and present case studies, and by discussing definitions of terrorism, causes of political violence, and the roles played by the state and the media in connection to it.

Topics covered include: historical trends in terrorist violence; definitions of terrorism; causes of political violence; ‘just war’; theories of the state; dissident terrorism; state terrorism; religion and political violence; the media and political violence; counter-terrorism; and non-violent dissent.

The coursework in this module (as of 2016-17) consists of two essays. In the first essay (3000 words now, 3500 words 2016-2019), students are asked to critically analyse a case of terrorism or political violence of their choice, using a chosen report of it as a starting point for their discussion. Some of the best essays are available below.

A further essay (of 2000 words) was introduced in 2016-17, asking students to critically discuss their preferred definition of ‘terrorism’ using examples to demonstrate your argument. Some of the best essays are also available below.

Also copied below are some of the useful online resources recommended for more information and analysis in the module. A recent version of the reading list is available here. Feel free to share more resources using that hashtag or by emailing me or commenting on this page.

Top student essays on defining ‘terrorism’ (from 2016-17):

  1. Emily Hill (2016-17): ‘The illegitimate use of premeditated force or violence, with the intention to cause harm to, or fear amongst, non-combatants, in pursuit of political, religious and/or ideological change, conducted by a person, persons, group or state.’
  2. Malte Jütting (2016-17): ‘An act of violence or threatened violence perpetrated by non-state actors, which targets randomly chosen or symbolic non-combatant victims in order to create a climate of extreme fear in a wider audience for political, social or religious motives.’
  3. Natali Dimitrova (2016-17): ‘The use of violence for political aims against civilian targets by non-state actors.’
  4. Niamh O’Brien (2017-18): ‘The negative perception of the use or threatened use of force to bring about ideological change.’
  5. Ryan Bolton (2017-18): ‘The use of symbolic acts of violence, often excessive, against soft targets, driven by political, religious, or other ideological motives, with the intention of impacting a wider audience and coercing it into making political changes.’
  6. Flora Jacobs (2018-19): ‘The use of violence by a non-state actor against non-combatant targets to cause fear and further political aims.’
  7. Mollie Raine (2018-19): ‘The use, or threat of, excessive physical violence which puts civilians or non-combatants at risk, and is carried out with political or religious motivations in order to influence societies and governments by creating fear.’
  8. Will Candy (2018-19): ‘The threat or use of violence by organisations for political purposes when such actions are intended to modify the behaviour of target(s) wider than the immediate innocent victims.’
  9. Amalia Tihon (2019-20): ‘Political violence directed against civilians with a coercive intent that rests on the production of a state of fear or terror to generate a wider psychological impact beyond the immediate victim and to create power in situation in which power previously had been lacking.’
  10. Chloe Self (2019-20): ‘An Act that Uses Life-Threatening or Lethal Methods to Harm Non-Combatants or Non-Active Combatants and Advance an Ideologically Motivated Cause.’
  11. Sam Merrick (2019-20): ‘The strategic use, or threatened use, of acts of extreme violence against human bodies, intended to psychologically impact an audience beyond those immediately targeted committed, in whole or in part, to advance political aims.’

Top student essays analysing a case study:

  1. Afghanistan: Kabul suicide bombing (2016) – ‘Kabul attack: ISIS claims responsibility after “suicide bombing” kills 80 and injures hundreds’ (Independent, 2016) – By Daniella Genillard (2016-17)
  2. Colombia: plane hikacking (2002) – ‘Colombian Rebels Hijack Plane and Kidnap Senator’ (NY Times, 2002) – By Jonathan Hicks (2014-15)
  3. Colombia: oil sites attack (2015) – ‘Rebel Attacks on Oil Sites Threaten Peace Talks in Colombia’ (LA Times, 2015) – By Emily Maddox (2015-16)
  4. France: Charlie Hebdo attack (2015) – ‘Charlie Hebdo attack: France’s worst terrorist attack in a generation leaves 12 dead’ (Telegraph, 2015) – By Dominic Dyer (2016-17)
  5. France: Charlie Hebdo attack (2015) – ‘Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror’ (BBC, 2015) – By David Nti (2016-17)
  6. France: Charlie Hebdo attack (2015) – ‘Manhunt for Charlie Hebdo suspects enters third day’ (France 24, 2015) – By Natali Dimitrova (2016-17)
  7. France: Paris attacks (2015) – ‘Paris attacks: What happened on the night’ (BBC, 2015) – By Katie Bartoletti (2019-20)
  8. France: Paris attacks (2015) – ‘Why has France been targeted again?’’ (Telegraph, 2015) – By Harry Eagles (2016-17)
  9. France: Bastille day attack (2016) – ‘Nice terrorist attack on Bastille Day: everything we know so far’ (Telegraph, 2016) – By James Innocent (2017-18)
  10. India: Mumbai attacks (2008) – ‘At least 100 Dead in India Terror Attacks’ (NY Times, 2008) – By Priya Patel (2012-13)
  11. Israel & Lebanon: war with Hezbullah (2006) – ‘Israeli Ground Forces Push Deeper Into Lebanon’ (Fox News, 2006) – By Renée van Diemen (2011-12)
  12. Israel: Jerusalem suicide bomb 2002 – ’19 killed by Jerusalem suicide bomb’ (Guardian, 2002) – By Kelly Bailey (2011-12)
  13. Israel: Gaza suicide bomber (2004) – ‘Human-bomb mother kills four Israelis at Gaza checkpoint’ (Guardian, 2004) – By Cameron Heath (2017-18)
  14. Israel: Operation Summer Rain (2006) – ‘Palestinian children pay price of Israel’s Summer Rain offensive’ (Guardian, 2006) – By Christopher George (2010-11)
  15. Israel: Netanya suicide bombing (2002) – ‘Suicide bomb kills 16 Israelis in hotel’ (Guardian, 2002) – By Lauren Edgeley (2010-11)
  16. Israel: Tel Aviv bus bomb (2012) – ‘Tel Aviv bus bomb injures at least 10 people’ (Guardian, 2012) – By Amy Whitehead (2013-14)
  17. Kenya & Tanzania: US embassies bombing (1998) – ‘Bombs Explode at 2 U.S. Embassies in Africa. Scores Dead’ (Washington Post, 1998) – By Thomas Hadji (2013-14)
  18. Kenya: bus attack (2014) – ‘Al-Shabab militants hijack bus in Kenya, kill 28 non-Muslims on board, police say’ (Fox, 2014) – By Neda Ardehali (2014-15)
  19. Kenya: Westgate Mall attack (2013) – ‘Gunmen Kill Dozens in Terror Attack at Kenyan Mall’ (NY Times, 2013) – By Ahmed Gerashi (2014-15)
  20. Kenya: Westgate Mall attack (2013) – ‘Terror in Nairobi: The Full Story behind al-Shabaab’s Mall Attack’ (Guardian, 2013) – By Malte Jütting (2016-17)
  21. Kenya: Westgate Mall attack (2013) – ‘Terror in Nairobi: The Full Story behind al-Shabaab’s Mall Attack’ (Guardian, 2013) – By Timothy Holland (2016-17)
  22. Kenya: Garissa University attack (2015) – ‘Kenya Attack: There were screams and nobody knew if we would survive’ (Guardian, 2015) – By Hannah Keal (2019-20)
  23. Nigeria: school attack (2013) – ‘Boko Haram leader calls for more school attacks after dorm killings’ (Guardian, 2013) – By April Williams (2013-14)
  24. Nigeria: Borno attacks (2015) – ‘Boko Haram slaughter 150 Nigerian Muslims’ (Daily Mail, 2015) – By Scott Johnson (2015-16)
  25. Nigeria: Chibok abductions (2014) – ‘Chibok abductions in Nigeria: “More than 230 seized”‘ (BBC, 2014) – By Jane Adelakun (2014-15)
  26. Nigeria: Dalori attacks (2016) – ‘In Nigeria, 86 people shot, burned to death in village, refugee camps’ (The Washington Post, 2016) – By Keziah Green (2016-17)
  27. Norway: Oslo bomb and Utoya attack (2011) – ‘Inside the Warped Mind of Anders Breivik’ (Telegraph, 2016) – By Sophie McCammond (2018-19)
  28. Russia: Beslan school attack (2004) – ‘Russia School Siege ends in Carnage: Hundreds Die as Troops Battle Hostage Takers’ (Washington Post, 2004) – By Matthew Prowse (2014-15)
  29. Somalia: Mogadishu truck bombing (2017) – ‘Mogadishu truck bomb: 500 casualties in Somalia’s worst terrorist attack’ (Guardian, 2017) – By Zara Heathcote (2017-18)
  30. Spain: Blanco assassination (1997) – ‘Spain gripped by mass protest against the ETA gunmen’ (Independent, 1997) – By India Sanders (2017-18)
  31. UK: London underground bombings (2005) – ‘London Bombs “were first British suicide attacks”’ (Guardian, 2005) – By Benjamin Wakefield (2015-16)
  32. UK: Manchester arena bombing (2017) – ‘Manchester terror attack: Everything we know’ (Telegraph, 2017) – By Samuel Holmes (2018-19)
  33. UK: Omagh bombing (1998) – ‘The Bomb hit right where it was placed: at Omagh’s heart’ (Guardian, 1998) – By Louise Kelly (2015-16)
  34. USA: Times bombing (1910) – ‘Burning Words of the Press on the Bombing of “The Times”’ (LA Times, 1910) – By Michael Farquharson (2011-12)
  35. USA: pipeline arson (2016) – ‘Eco-Terrorists Suspected of Causing $2 Million in Arson Damage at Dakota Pipeline Site’ (Daily Caller, 2016) – By Rachel Dowie (2016-17)
  36. USA: Oklahoma City bombing (1995) – ‘Innocent victims in the line of fire’ (Daily Mail, 1995) – By Mollie Raine (2018-19)

Online resources:

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