Nonviolent Resistance a global History 1830-2000

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General Reading 

(Note: copies of these can in many cases be found in the Short Loan Collection (SLC), on the 1st floor of the library)

  • Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century (Westport, Connecticut, 1994)

  • Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, A Force more Powerful: a Century of Nonviolent Conflict (New York and Basingstoke, 2000)

  • April Carter, People Power and Political Change: Key Issues and Concerns (Abingdon 2012)

  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (New York 2011)

  • Howard Clark (ed.), People Power: Unarmed Resistance and Solidarity (London 2009)

  • Tim Gee, Counter Power: Making Change Happen (Oxford 2011)

  • Robert Helvey, On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About Fundamentals (Albert Einstein Institute, Boston 2004). Whole text can be downloaded from:

  • Robert L. Holmes and Barry L. Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice (Long Grove, Illinois, 2005)

  • Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea (London, 2006)

  • Sharon Nepstad, Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late 20th Century (Oxford, USA 2011)

  • M. Randle, Civil Resistance (London, 1994). Available also at

  • Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (Oxford, 2009).

  • Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Why Peaceful Protest is Stronger than War (London 2005)

  • Kurt Schock, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies ( Minneapolis 2005)

  • Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston, 1973).

  • Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual framework for Liberation (Boston, 2002) (for electronic links, see library catalogue)

  • Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential (Boston, 2005)

  • Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge, 1998)

  • Stephen Zunes, Lester R. Kurtz, and Sarah Beth Asher, Nonviolent social movements: a geographical perspective (Malden, Mass., 1999)

Books to buy

It is recommended that you purchase either: Ackerman and Kruegler, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict; or Ackerman and DuVall, A Force more Powerful. These will provide reading on several of the case studies examined in the weekly seminars. Schock, Unarmed Insurrections; Carter, People Power and Political Change; Chenoweth and Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works; and Nepstad, Nonviolent Revolutions are all highly recommended for their excellent critical analysis of a variety of the more recent movements. M. Randle, Civil Resistance provides the best long-term history, and can be purchased cheaply second-hand.

Essays and examination

Each of you will give one presentation. Topics and dates will be allocated in October 2012, after consultation. You should prepare a PowerPoint presentation that sets out the theme of the topic and provides an argument that answers the question. One of the non-assessed essays may be on the same topic as your presentation.

Non-assessed work:

It is compulsory to do two 2,000-word essays, the first due in week 7 of the autumn term, and the second in week 3 of the spring term. You may do extra essays if you wish, and they will be marked and commented on by David Hardiman in exactly the same way as the compulsory essays. Note: You should not do two essays on the same country or movement, and at least one should compare movements in different places or over different issues.

Assessed work:


One three-hour exam (answer 3 questions).


One two-hour exam (answer two questions) AND one 4,500 word long essay (due at noon on Wednesday of week 3 in the summer term). 4,500 words is the maximum number of word, and marks will be deducted at the rate of 1 mark each 50 words, or part thereof, over the limit. Footnotes are included in this word-count, but the bibliography is not.


Although students are normally expected to do their dissertation in their special subject, it is permitted to do it in the advanced option. If this is the choice, please see David Hardiman to discuss it, and he will then supervise the dissertation. You must make a final decision in this respect by the end of the autumn term, so begin to think about this from early on in the term, and discuss it with DH to see if it is viable.

Some suggested short essay questions
These are for your guidance. You may modify them, or choose different topics if you wish, but please clear all titles with David Hardiman first.
Questions on specific movements

  1. Why was American ‘non-resistance’ considered such a radical force in the nineteenth century?

  1. Discuss the rival ‘moral force’ and ‘physical force’ debates within the Chartist movement. What were the strategic advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

  1. What were the features of ‘passive resistance’, as seen in the national self determination movements in either Hungary 1849-67 or Finland 1899-1900?

  1. Compare and contrast the passive resistance campaigns in Hungary 1849-67 and Finland 1899-1900.

  1. ‘Despite all his denials, the movement that Gandhi led in South Africa was firmly within the tradition of passive resistance.’ Discuss.

  1. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Gandhi’s leadership of campaigns of nonviolent resistance in India either in 1917-1922 or in 1930-31.

  1. Why has the Indian Civil Disobedience movement of 1930-31 been so iconic for nonviolent resistance studies in general?

  1. Examine the relationship between Islam and nonviolence in the case of the Khudai Khitmadgars of the North West Frontier Province of India.

  1. How effective was nonviolent resistance to Nazi occupation in World War II?

  1. What were the reasons for the success of the Civil Rights Movement in the American South 1955-1965?

  1. ‘Nonviolent resistance proved far more effective than violent resistance in overthrowing the apartheid regime in South Africa.’ Discuss.

  1. What were the reasons for the successes and failures of the Solidarity movement of 1980-1 in Poland?

  1. How was dissent organised and expressed in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe?

  1. Evaluate the reasons for the success of the women of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina.

  1. Did either the Burmese or Chinese pro-democracy movement fail because of poor strategy?

  1. What were the reasons for the success of nonviolent resistance against Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 2000?

Comparative questions

  1. ‘Nineteenth and early twentieth-century ‘passive resistance’ was anything but passive.’ Discuss.

  1. To what extent was nineteenth and early twentieth-century ‘passive resistance’ an elitist form of protest?

  1. How important was Martin Luther King in the development of the theory and techniques of nonviolent resistance?

  1. Evaluate the importance of American political theorists in the practice of nonviolent resistance.

  1. ‘During the 1960s, nonviolence went out of fashion.’ Discuss

  1. ‘The 1980s was a decade of both great success and failure for nonviolent resistance.’ Discuss using the cases of Poland, the Philippines, Chile, Burma and China.

  1. Do women, as Gandhi contended, have a superior capacity for nonviolent resistance?

  1. In nonviolent resistance, how important is an ethic of justice, as against an ethic of care?

  1. ‘Islam and nonviolence have proved incompatible in modern times.’ Discuss.

  1. Is nonviolent resistance a strategy that is generally in the interests of the socially privileged?

  1. What forms of leadership have proved to be most effective in nonviolent resistance?

  1. To what extent has violence by one element within a movement helped or hindered predominantly nonviolent movements? (You may if you wish focus on one particular movement, such as the Indian nationalist movement or the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and make this an essay on a single movement. Don’t do this if you have already written an essay on one of these movements.)

  1. How important for nonviolent resistance is a commitment to nonviolence as a moral imperative?

  1. How important is it for the success of nonviolent campaigns that the opponent is open to moral appeal?

  1. Are there any particular conditions that enhance the possibility of success for a nonviolent movement against an authoritarian government? Or Why do some authoritarian regimes collapse while others remain strong in the face of extensive nonviolent resistance? Discuss at least three cases. (Note, among other things, the importance of pressure on the regime, the internal cohesion of the regime, and negotiation abilities by protestors.)

Long Essay
This applies if you decide to do a long essay and a two-question exam. You may choose any topic that relates to the subject of the module for the long essay. You can choose a short essay question, a modification of one, or a topic that does not appear on the essay list. All long essay titles should be discussed with me. I will give each of you a time in the final two weeks of the spring term when I shall see you individually about this. If you decide to change or modify your title after this, you should send an email to me. During the course of the year, you should think about your long essay; and you may come to me to discuss it at any time.

Some major movements 1830-2000
This lists some of the more noteworthy movements during this period. It is not a comprehensive list. In many cases, there were violent elements to the movements, in which case the interplay between violence and nonviolence within the movement, and how each affected the outcome is of interest.

  • 1832. Britain. Agitation for parliamentary reform.

  • 1830s. USA. Anti-slavery campaign, centred on Boston, where William Lloyd Garrison and his friends formed the ‘Non-Resistance Society’ to fight slavery by nonviolent means.

  • 1838-48. Britain. Chartist movement. Debate over ‘moral force’ or ‘physical force’.

  • 1848. Europe. Resistance to autocracies.

  • 1849-67. Hungary. Movement for self-determination led by Ferenc Deák.

  • 1867-1907. New Zealand. Resistance by Maoris under leadership of Te Whiti.

  • 1870s-1880s. Ireland. Home Rule Movement. Incorporated some important nonviolent methods, notably the boycott, though there was much violence as well

  • 1899-1905. Finland. Movement for self-determination against Russia.

  • 1905. Russia. The 1905 Revolution had important nonviolent dimensions, though there was violence as well.

  • Britain. Suffragette Movement.

  • 1906-14. South Africa. Anti-racial discrimination movement led by Gandhi.

  • 1918. Western Samoa. Mass nonviolent movement to protest the mandate given by the League of Nations to New Zealand.

  • 1920. Germany. Nonviolent resistance in Berlin to attempted coup.

  • 1920-47. India. Independence movement led by Gandhi.

  • 1923. Germany. Resistance to French occupation in the Ruhr.

  • 1940-45. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands. Resistance to Nazi occupation.

  • 1944. El Salvador. Civic strike.

  • 1945-89. South Africa. Anti-apartheid struggle.

  • 1945 onwards. Britain, USA and Europe (mainly). Movement to ban nuclear weapons.

  • 1950-65. Africa. Nationalist liberation struggles against colonial rule, e.g. in Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania.

  • 1955-68. USA. Civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.

  • 1965-71. USA. Struggle for better working conditions for Hispanic workers led by Cesar Chavez.

  • USA 1966-70. USA. Anti-Vietnam war movement.

  • 1968. Czechoslovakia. The ‘velvet revolution’ led by Alexander Dubcek.

  • 1968-1981. Northern Ireland. Civil rights movement and hunger strikes.

  • 1970. France. Struggle against extension of an army camp in Larzac led by Lanza del Vasto.

  • 1973-80. India. Chipko movement against cutting of trees in Himalayas.

  • 1974-75. India. Movement against corruption of Congress regimes led by Jayprakash Narayan.

  • 1977. Argentina. Movement by mothers of the ‘disappeared’.

  • 1978-79. Iran. Movement against the Shah.

  • 1980-81. Poland. Solidarity movement by workers led by Lech Walesa.

  • 1983-84. Philippines. Movement against Marcos.

  • 1986. Chile. Movement against Pinochet dictatorship.

  • 1987-90. Palestine. Intifada against Israeli occupation.

  • 1987-94. India. Movement against the Narmada Dam led by Medha Patkar.

  • 1988-90 and 2007. Burma. Democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

  • 1989. Eastern Europe. Movement to overthrow communist regimes.

  • 1989. China. Democracy movement.

  • 1990. Nepal. Movement for democracy.

  • 1991. Russia. Resistance to attempted coup led by Boris Yeltsin.

  • 1991-92. Thailand. Resistance to military rule.

  • 1990s. Global. Eco-protests led by organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

  • 1998 onwards. Global. Anti-globalisation movement.

  • 1996-2000. Serbia. Movement against Milosevic.

  • 2004. Ukraine. The ‘Orange Revolution’ for Democracy.

  • 2009. Iran. Movement for democracy and civil liberties.

  • 2011. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya (initially), Syria etc. Movements for democracy and civil liberties.

Seminars will all be each Wednesday in room H 0.43 from 10.0 to 12.0. They are compulsory, and everyone must have read the core reading for the week beforehand, and be prepared to contribute fully to the discussion. Unavoidable absence (e.g. though illness) should be notified by email or telephone at the time. From week 3 onwards, the seminars will be led by one or two students, who will have prepared a talk on the topic for the week lasting about twenty minutes. Other students can then have a chance to question the presenter. In some cases, a short film will follow on the topic. The seminar will then be split into four small groups that will each discuss one of the leading questions, after which there will be a general discussion, moderated by the student or students who are leading the seminar. There will be a short five-minute break in the middle of each seminar. The seminars are as follows:

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