The History of Terrorism
Nick Sitter BI
Lessons from 150 years of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. Nick Sitter, Department of Law, BI Norwegian Business School.
Open lecture by Nick Sitter, professor, Department of Law, BI Norwegian Business School.
Modern terrorism dates back to the 1850s. A combination of radical ideologies, revolutions and civil wars, the invention of dynamite and a revolution in mass communications made terrorism an attractive option for some groups.
The four main varieties of contemporary terrorism - from the extreme left wing, right wing, nationalist and religious groups - all developed during the second half of the 19th century.
Despite the considerable variation across space, time and ideology, a number of important themes are repeated through the history of terrorism. One of the most important of these is about the strategy and tactics of terrorism: most terrorists try to provoke states to overreact.
The challenge for counter-terrorism policy - then as now - is how not to walk into the "terrorism trap". The dilemma that faces democratically elected and accountable leaders is that they face pressure to act swiftly and decisively, whereas sound counter-terrorism policy usually requires more carefully considered responses.