International relations

The Politics of Terror

Module code: M1014S
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

This module offers an advanced-level introduction to terrorism and political violence in modern societies. Through attention to case studies, academic literatures and a variety of media and other primary sources the module focuses on:

  • The conceptual and analytical challenges of defining and understanding terrorism and political violence
  • Terror as a political instrument
  • The relationship between state and non-state terror
  • The historical development of terrorism and counter-terrorism
  • The organisational, ideological and strategic dynamics of terrorist organisations
  • The policy dilemmas faced and principle methodologies employed by democratic and other states in countering terrorism
  • The role of media, mass communication and 'public discourse' in political violence

The curriculum is roughly divided into two sections. The first, 'Studying Terrorism: Historical and Conceptual Issues', offers a thematic exploration of terrorism considering its historical development in modern societies; relation to other forms of organised violence; some of the animating ideas historically associated with the use of terror for political purposes; the phenomenon of 'suicide terrorism' and the ideas, organisations and practices used by states in their efforts to counter terrorism. The second section, 'Cases and Contexts', situates terrorism and political violence within the changing context of state power, international and global politics, exploring the historical and contemporary relations between them. The course concludes by looking at how terror campaigns end.

The assessment for this module is a long term paper of 7000 words. The teaching method is a three-hour seminar each week.

Module learning outcomes

  • Develop a detailed conceptual understanding of the empirical and theoretical uncertainties, ambiguities and limits shaping the way terrorism has been affected by and impacted on national, international and global politics.
  • Develop a systematic and critical understanding of the central literatures, concepts and theories used in the study of terrorism, counterterrorism and political violence.
  • Effectively synthesise and communicate a detailed and historically informed analysis of the uses of terror by state and non-state actors in the modern world.