zzCourse Outline G – A Particular History of Terrorism

Winter Term, 2018 – Room 204
Fridays, Jan. 12-March 16, 2018
Mornings, 9:50-11:50

Co-chairs: Sheilah Reid and Stuart Livingston

Course Director: Dr. Peter Vronsky, is an investigative historian and author. He is a former journalist with a recent Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in the field of espionage in international relations and criminal justice history. He lectures at Ryerson University in the history of international relations, espionage, and terrorism.

“The War on Terror” has become a hallmark of the contemporary international order. 9/11, Al Qaeda, and ISIS/ISIL have become terms in the common vernacular. But is it all really anything new? Contrary to popular belief, terrorism and terror has always been part of the international polity. From the terror cimbricus of ancient Rome to Osama Bin Laden, world history is littered with “terrorists.” While we have used the word for more than two millennia, defining terrorism in any objective and universally agreed fashion has proven difficult. This course will explore some of the many dimensions of global terrorism, tracing the development of terrorism as a political tool from the ancient world to the 21st century.

History of Terrorism course webpage:

Course Lecture Schedule (subject to change)

WEEK 1 Jan. 12    Introduction: What is Terrorism?
We begin with a survey of different movements and categories of terrorism and attempt to define what is terrorism.

WEEK 2   Jan. 19    Zealots and Assassins: Preindustrial Age Terrorism
We consider the evolution of terrorism and “tyrannicide” from the Biblical era and the Middle Ages to the “new thinking” of the secular Enlightenment which lent “reason” to terrorism and propelled it into the emerging modern ideological world.

WEEK 3   Jan. 26    Nationalism, Revolution and Anarchy: Terrorism in the 19th Century
Terrorism flourished in a century shaped by the tremendous pressures of nationalism and industrialization. In an age of profound political, economic, social, and technological changes, terrorists found their voice: not just locally, but in the sinews of international ideas. Acts of terror occurred from the US to Russia, and many places in between, including Confederation-era Canada. This session looks at one of terrorism’s most formative periods.

WEEK 4   Feb. 2     Social Terrorism:   State Strategies and Responses 1900-1930
From the firebombing campaigns by feminist suffragists in Britain to the merger of anarchist movements with labour unionism in the US, governments responded to rising radicalism with new national security laws and the establishment of permanent internal security agencies.

WEEK 5  Feb. 9     “A Special System of Violence”: Terror and the Two World Wars
The world wars shattered the global order in myriad ways, not the least of which was introducing systematic state use of terror in many parts of the world. This session looks at the emergence of extremist states and their widespread use of terror strategies.

WEEK 6  Feb. 16    “Liberation Terrorism”: Anti-Colonial Movements, 1945-1970
Decolonization and the Cold War were the hallmarks of a “new world order” after 1945. For aspiring Third World nationalists, terrorism became a vehicle for change. Decolonization movements often became pawns in Cold War rivalries between the Soviet Union and the US.

WEEK 7   Feb. 23    International Terror Networks: Urban Terrorism 1970-1991
Terrorism shifted its focus from rural-based “guerrilla” focos to urban “terrorist” cells such as the IRA in Ireland, the ETA in Spain, and the FLQ in Canada. There were also postmodern Marxist revolutionary groups like the Weathermen in the US, the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Rengo Sekigun (United Red Army) in Japan. Eventually these movements begin to ally with each other into an international terror network clandestinely supported by rival superpowers.

WEEK 8   Mar. 2    The Middle East 1: The Rise & Fall of Secular Terrorism, 1945-1993
In the midst of the current “war on terror” we perceive terrorists as emanating from radical Islamic movements in the Middle East. But in the 1970s an alphabet soup of secular, left-leaning, or Marxist nationalist terrorist groups existed: the PLO, DFLP, PDFLP, Black September, the Abu Nidal Group (ANO), and many others: They introduced an era of hijackings, airport massacres, hostage-takings, bombings, and assassinations.

WEEK 9     Mar. 9    The Middle East 2: The Rise of Global Islamic Terrorism, 1993-2001
As the clash of ideologies came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, a new threat arose in the form of a “clash of civilizations” between renegade radical Islamists and Judeo-Christian societies. This “new” clash has roots that are centuries old, and it burrows deep into divisions within Islam itself.

WEEK 10   Mar. 16    The “War on Terror”: The State of the Union Today
What have we learned from the many “wars on terror” fought in the past and from today’s “War on Terror,” which shows little promise of waning? Most troubling is the issue of the primary objective of terrorism: to elicit from the state a disproportionate reactionary response resulting in the erosion of fundamental democratic freedoms in society and the polarization of the populace, which in turn attracts further support and recruits to the terrorist cause. How successful was the 9/11 WTC attack in achieving this goal?