Nonviolent Resistance a global History 1830-2000



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Week 10. Nonviolent resistance to Hitler

The focus this week is on nonviolent forms of resistance to German occupation in Europe from 1940 to 1945, particularly in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Was this the ultimate test of the method? Can it be an effective form of national defence?

A DVD on Danish resistance to Nazis in Denmark will be shown.
Core reading:


  • Either Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century, chapter 6, pp. 213-49 on Denmark.

  • Or Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, chapter 5, pp.207-239. (3 copies are in SRC.)

Questions for discussion:



  • What were the conditions for effective nonviolent resistance to the Nazis?

  • How successful in the long term was such resistance, and to what extent did it help in the overall anti-Nazi struggle? What were the long-term post-war consequences?

  • How effective is sabotage against property in a nonviolent struggle? This may involve bombing buildings, factories, railways and other installations associated with the opponent, subterfuge disabling of vehicles and so on. There are varying degrees of violence in sabotage. In Denmark, sabotage led to harsh reprisals, and was abandoned in favour of strike action. Is it more akin to terrorism than nonviolent resistance?

  • Punishment of collaborators and traitors. This may range from executions (very violent), to social boycott. When does such a tactic cross the divide between violence and nonviolence? Note, sabotage, which involves secrecy, tends to lead to violent punishment of informers etc.

Further reading:



  • Lennart Bergfeldt, Experiences of Civilian Resistance: The Case of Denmark, 1940-1945

  • J.H. Brinks, ‘The Dutch, the Germans and the Jews’, History Today, 49, 1999.

  • Anna Bravo, ‘Armed and Unanrmed: Struggles without Weapons in Europe’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 10, 2005.

  • Louis DeJong, The Netherlands and Nazi Germany

  • Rachel Einwohner, ‘Identity work and collective action in a repressive context: Jewish resistance on the “Aryan side” of the Warsaw Ghetto’, Social Problems, 53, 2006. This can be used as an example of resistance to the Nazis in particularly adverse circumstances.

  • Leo Goldberger (ed.), The Rescue of the Danish Jews Moral Courage under Stress (1987).

  • Jorgen Haestrup, Secret Alliance: A Study of the Danish Resistance Movement 1940-45

  • Jorgen Haestrup, European Resistance Movements, 1939-45; A Complete History

  • Glyn Jones, Denmark: A Modern History

  • Brian Martin, ‘The Nazis and nonviolence’, Social Alternatives, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 47-49 (August 1987); ‘The Nazis and nonviolence (II)’. Social Alternatives, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 54-55 (April 1990).

  • Bob Moore (ed.), Resistance in Western Europe (Oxford 2000) – see chapters on Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands.

  • Ricard Petrow, The Bitter Years: The Invasion and Occupation of Denmark and Norway (Aylesbury 1975).

  • Werner Rings, Life with the Enemy: Collaboration and Resistance in Hitler’s Europe 1939-1945 (New York, 1982).

  • Adam Roberts, (editor) The Strategy of Civilian Defence: Non-violent Resistance to Aggression. This has essays in it by various authors on nonviolent resistance to the Nazis.

  • Bjørn Schreiber Pederson and Adam Holm, ‘Restraining Excesses: Resistance and Counter-resistance in Nazi-occupied Denmark’, in Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1998, pp. 60-89.

  • Ernst Schwarcz, ‘Nonviolent Resistance against the Nazis in Norway and Holland during World War II’, in Barry L. Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice (Longrove, Ill, 2005).

  • Jacques Semelin, translated by Suzan Husserl-Kapit, Unarmed against Hitler: civilian resistance in Europe, 1939-1943 (Westport 1993).

  • Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, pp.87-8. For Norwegian teacher’s struggle of 1942.

  • Kathleen Stokker, ‘Heil Hitler; God Save the King: Jokes and the Norwegian Resistance, 1940-1945,’ Western Folklore, 50, 1991.

  • Michael C. Stratford, ‘Can nonviolent national defence be effective if the opponent is ruthless? The Nazi case’, Social Alternatives, 6, 1987.

  • John Orem Thomas, The Giant Killers: The Story of the Danish Resistance Movement

For how the people of Chambon village in France sheltered Jews from the Nazis, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Chambon-sur-Lignon Further references are given there, though the books cited are not in the Warwick library.


Week 11. US Civil Rights Movement

The subject is the Civil Rights Movement in the USA for African Americans from 1930s to 1968, with a particular focus on Martin Luther King, his leadership and his contribution to the theory and practice of nonviolent resistance. The Black Power reaction may also be discussed.

A DVD on the civil rights movement in Nashville, 1960, will be shown.
Core reading


  • Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, chapter 8, pp.305-368.

Questions for discussion:



  • What was distinctive about Martin Luther King’s leadership? How much was he influenced by Gandhi, and were his methods similar to those of Gandhi, or were there important differences?

  • Would it be true to say that Martin Luther King's nonviolence was as much pragmatic as moral? 

  • How crucial was the leadership of Martin Luther King to the Civil Rights movement?

  • Why was the Nashville lunch-counter protest of early 1960 so successful? E.g. analyse the conditions for its success.

  • To what extent did the movement benefit from the counter-violence of white racists?

  • What were the conditions that brought success to the movement in the south, but not in the north?

  • How justified was the Black Power critique of Martin Luther King and his nonviolence?

  • What was the legacy of the Civil Rights movement for the USA?

Further reading:


Development of the theory of nonviolent resistance in USA

  • Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence (London 1935).

  • Joseph Kip Kosek, ‘Richard Gregg, Mohandas Gandhi, and the Strategy of Nonviolence’, The Journal of American History, Vol. 91, No.4, March 2005.

  • Krishnalal Shridharani, War without Violence: A Study of Gandhi’s method and its Accomplishments (London 1939).


Civil Rights Movement

  • Warwick library section E 185.97.K4

  • Bell, Inge Powell, CORE and the strategy of non-violence

  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63

  • Gregory Calvert, Democracy from the Heart: Spiritual Values, Decentralisation, and Democratic Idealism in the Movement in the 1960s

  • Carson, Clayborne, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s

  • Cone, James H., Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare

  • David Cortright, Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for an Age of Terrorism, Chs. 2, 3 and 7.

  • John D'Emilio, Lost prophet: the life and times of Bayard Rustin

  • Barbara Epstein, Political protest and cultural revolution, Nonviolent direct action in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s

  • G. Frederickson, Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa

  • Herbert H. Haines, ‘Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights, 1957-1970,’ Social Problems, 23, 1984, pp. 31-43.

  • Herbert H. Haines, Black Radicals and the Civil Rights Mainstream, 1954-1970, University of Tennessee 1989.

  • Heale, M.J., The Sixties in America: History, Politics and Protest

  • Wesley C. Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for A New America

  • Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet: The African-American Encounter with Gandhi

  • Marable, Manning, Black American Politics: From the Washington Marches to Jesse Jackson

  • Marable, Manning, Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990

  • Doug McAdam, ‘The US Civil Rights Movement from Below and Above’, in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics

  • McClymer, John F., Mississippi Freedom Summer

  • Meier, August and Elliott Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968

  • Aldon Morris, ‘Black Southern Student Sit-in Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organisation’, American Sociological Review, Vol. 46, 1981

  • Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar (ed.), Problems in American Civilisation: The Civil Rights Movement

  • Frederick O. Sargent, The Civil Rights Revolution: Events and Leaders, 1955-1968 Martin Luther King

  • John White, Black Leadership in America: From Booker T. Washington to Jesse Jackson


Martin Luther King

  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63

  • Carson Clayborne, ‘A leader who stood out in a forest of small trees’, in Thomas C. Holt and Elsa Barkley Brown (eds.), Major Problems in African-American History, Volume II, From Freedom to ‘Freedom Now’ 1865-1990s

  • James Colacico, ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Paradox of Nonviolent Direct Action,’ Phylon, 47, 1986. Also in John A. Kirk (ed.), Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement (Hampshire and New York 2007).

  • James Cone, Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or Nightmare, New York 1997.

  • Dennis Dalton, Mahatma Gandhi, Ch.6. On Gandhi’s impact on Martin Luther King and the USA.

  • David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 2004

  • David Garrow, ‘King’s Plagiarism: Imitation, Insecurity and Transformation,’ The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1, 1991.

  • Nathan Huggins, ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.: Charisma and Leadership’, The Journal of American History, 74, 1987.

  • Michael J. Honey, Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign (New York 2010).

  • Martin Luther King, Stride Towards Freedom: The Montgomery Story (London 1959).

  • Martin Luther King, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (San Francisco 1991)

  • Mary King, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.: the power of nonviolent action

  • John A. Kirk (ed.), Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement (Hampshire and New York 2007).

  • Steven Lawson, ‘Review: Freedom Then, Freedom Now: The Historiography of the Civil Rights Movement’, The American Historical Review, 96, 1991.

  • David L. Lewis, Martin Luther King: A Critical Biography (New York 1970)

  • Peter J. Ling, Martin Luther King, Jr. (London 2002).

  • David L. Martin, Martin Luther King: A Critical Biography, New York 1970.

  • Greg Moses, Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Philosophy of Nonviolence

  • Rienhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics, Niebuhr had a strong influence on Martin Luther King.

  • Michael J. Nojeim, Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance

  • Stephen B. Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. A readable and sympathetic life of King.

  • Warren Steinkras, ‘Martin Luther King’s Personalism and Nonviolence’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 34, 1973.

  • Brian Ward and Tony Badger (eds.), The Making of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement

  • J.M. Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King Jr.


Black power alternatives

  • Floyd B. Barbour, The Black Power Revolt

  • Peniel E. Joseph, The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement. See in particular the chapter by Wendt.

  • Akinyelw O. Umoja, ‘The Ballot and the Bullet: A Comparative Analysis of Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement’, Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4.

  • Simon Wendt, ‘Gods, Gandhi and Guns; The African American Freedom Struggle in Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1964-65’, The Journal of African American History, Vol. 89, No. 1, 2004.



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