State Terror in the Long Nineteenth Century

Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:
State Terror in the Long Nineteenth Century

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This chapter mass atrocities committed by states from the French Revolution to the 1930s and the response of third parties. It focuses on the ‘Great Terror’ of the French Revolution; the use of mass killing to suppress domestic uprisings, focusing on the Greek insurrection in 1821, the 1848 uprisings in Paris and Vienna, the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871 and the Armenian genocide in 1915; the use of atrocities as reprisals to suppress wartime insurgencies, focusing on the Napoleonic peninsular war, the Franco-Prussian War, Cuba, the Boer War, and German reprisals in Belgium at the beginning of the First World War, and colonial terror used to ‘pacify’ and settle lands (focusing on the US ‘conquest’ of the West), extract financial profits (Leopold's Congo ‘Free State’) and suppress resistance (focusing on the Herero genocide). It argues that where governments failed to persuade others sufficiently of the legitimacy of using mass atrocities, they were criticised and occasionally punished. The level of plausible justification required to avoid criticism or punishment was lower if the victims were associated with insurgency-style warfare and much lower again if they were non-Europeans. Although states were occasionally criticised for terrorising these groups, they were seldom subjected to punishment.

Keywords: state terror; French Revolution; Armenian genocide; First World War; colonialism

Chapter.  27377 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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