Terrorism in 20th Century Europe



Terrorism grew to become one of the greatest security threats in Europe in the 20th century. Terrorism has caused losses of numerous lives on the continent as well as the destruction of the property leading to huge economic losses. The causes of terrorism in Europe are numerous and diverse. They are political, sociological, economic, and religious in nature and can be properly understood within a historical framework the entails social, political, economical, and religious developments since the end of the Ottoman Empire.


  • Bloxham, D. & Gerwarth, R. (2011). Political Violence in twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.

This book provides a comprehensive historical outlook of twentieth-century violence in Europe. Bloxham and Gerwarth (2011) examine the dynamics and causes of violence, genocides, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wars, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of terrorism in Europe. They examine the expressions of political violence and terrorism and they're full extend. They capture the time period of European history starting from the end of the Ottoman Empire until the successive World Wars and the Yugoslav wars. The article also explores the rise of fundamentalist terrorism. The scholars cover a wide European territory from Turkey and Caucasus to southern Iberia and Ireland. This text is very critical to the understanding of the extent and origin of terrorism and its manifestations in Europe during the twentieth century.

  • Engene, J. A. (2014). Terrorism in Western Europe: Explaining the Trends Since 1950. Edward Elgar Publishing

Engene (2014) examines the prevalence of terrorism in Western Europe. In his perspective, the Western European nations are advanced and stable democracies. Thus, it is suppressing that countries in these regions experience terrorism. He explores why some of these countries are hit by terrorism the hardest. He maps terrorism in 18 countries in this region since 1950. He explains the trends from an empirical and theoretical perspective taking into account a unique dataset known as TWEED. The data set covers over 9000 terrorist events and activities of over 200 terror groups since the 1950s. His approach to understanding terrorism in Western Europe is both historical and comparative. It is useful for a comparative study of political causes of terrorism.

  • Law, R. D. (2009). Terrorism: a history. MA: Polity Press.

According to Law (2009), terrorism is a face that threatens our age but is not entirely new since it has existed in the earliest ancient civilizations. Although he explores terrorism on a global scale, Law (2009) shares insights that are critical for the understanding of terrorism in Europe. He gives definitions of terrorism through ages providing broad historical, social, political, and religious contexts concerning terrorism. Law (2009) extensively explores terrorism and conflicts in Northern Ireland and Uruguay in the 19th century as well as other terrorism activities around the world during the 19th century and the medieval period.

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  • Lesser, I., Hoffman, B., Arquilla, J., Ronfeldt, D., Zanini, M., Jenkins, B. M. (2000). Countering the New Terrorism. RAND Corporation.

Lesser, et al. (2000) explore terrorism and related issues such as ideologies that encourage terrorism in Europe. Lesser, et al. (2000) also review terrorism issues across the entire world pursuing the subject from a counterterrorism perspective. The text underpins the importance of developing new counterterrorism mechanisms due to the change in the approach to terrorism. As such, it is a critical text for understanding the shifts in terrorist patterns and emerging terrorism trends in Europe. Such changes include new sources of terror, tactics, motivations, terror sponsorships among others.

  • Paxton, R. & Hassler, J. (2011). Europe in the twentieth century. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth; Andover: Cengage Learning

The book offers a comprehensive chronology of social and political issues that affected Europe in the 20th century. Among the issues covered are political unrest wars and terrorism. Like Bloxham & Gerwarth (2011), Paxton and Hassler (2011) cover terrorist and war causes and effects across the entire continent from Ireland in the north to Turley in the south. They provide a text that facilitates the understanding of European terrorism from different perspectives, including a social perspective and historical developments.

Ulusoy, M. D., North Atlantic Treaty Organization, & NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Political Violence, Organized Crimes, Terrorism and Youth. (2008). Political violence, organized crimes, terrorism, and youth. Amsterdam; Washington, DC: IOS Press.

Ulusoy et al (2009) also explore terrorism in the global context. Concerning Europe, they outline the threat that Europe experienced due to terrorism. The text describes the terrorism challenge that the continent has experienced over the recent 60 years. The discussed country has a high rate of terrorism activities second to only the Middle East. The authors classify terrorism as domestic and international. This text provides a narration of the influence of terror in Europe as well as the nature of terrorism.

  • Weinberg, L. (2007). Western European Terrorism, 1950-2000. In Bodwen B., & Davis, M. T. (Eds.). Terror: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism. Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press.

In this text, Weinberg (2007) explores the nature of terrorism in Europe between 1960 and the end of the millennium in 2000. He argues that terrorism can only be understood from the broader historical context. Exploring European terrorism without any consideration for the historical causes and perspectives places terrorism in a vacuum leading to poor understanding of the subject. Weinberg’s text is useful for the understanding of the historical and political factors in Spain, Portugal, the Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany, France, Italy, and the USSR. They influenced terrorism since the end of the Second World War and throughout the Cold War period. Like Ulusoy (2008), Weinberg also classifies European terrorism as domestic and international. The exploration of domestic and foreign issues encourages each form of terrorism.


It is wrong to explore terrorism from a contemporary perspective of Jihadism and ignore the historical origins of terrorism in Europe. Jihadism-related radicalization is a recent phenomenon. However, as the above texts point out, terrorism in Europe in the 20th century was a product of numerous factors including but not limited to war, social, political, economic, historical, and religious factors. Indeed, observation of all these factors within a historical framework provides a proper picture of the interaction of these factors in various contexts resulting in war, terror, and violence.

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