Global History of Terrorism Archive launches

Wednesday 7 June 2023

The internationally renowned Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews unveils a new Global History of Terrorism Archive, an extensive record that brings together historic newspaper reports relating to terrorism, political violence and security threats around the world.

The Global History of Terrorism Archive (GHTA) constitutes an in-depth record of terrorism from 1979 to 1993, including political violence and civil war during the last years of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath. The collection of broadsheet and tabloid reports provides content and context on political violence around the world during a highly turbulent period, providing an invaluable resource for the research community.

An international team of students meticulously sifted and organised 1600 lever arch files, each containing hundreds of newspaper cuttings relating to terrorism and political violence that were gifted to the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), based in the University’s  School of International Relations.

The project, which was led by postgraduate students from the US, UK, Italy, Germany, Poland, Romania, India, and Hong Kong at the University from autumn 2021, involved organising the newspaper articles by country and chronological order and developing search capabilities using keywords to create a basic catalogue for researchers to use.

The cuttings are mainly from English language British or American papers, but also include Spanish, French, German and Arabic newspapers, plus printouts from wire services Reuters, the Associated Press and Spanish international news agency, EFE. The collection data includes dates, main events, key names and places, and descriptors of major terrorist activities including type of attack and target.

As well as information on terrorist attacks, such as the Lockerbie bombing and kidnappings in Europe, the collection provides background information for each country on the state of the economy, political stability, government repression, regional relationships, security issues, policing and much more, allowing researchers to investigate risk factors that could be seen as markers associated with emerging terrorism and their wider implications.

Maia Sheridan, Manuscripts Archivist at the University, said: “As we are not able to digitise many of the articles due to copyright, what we have is a large archive where stories and the newspaper coverage have been brought together physically, without the need to scroll endlessly through the internet and fight paywalls.

“These files give researchers the chance to view the story from several different national perspectives, and to follow a story as it evolves through real time.”

CSTPV Director, Dr Tim Wilson, said: “The archive offers a cultural snapshot of the news business on the eve of the internet revolution, and much of this material could not be easily sourced online – browsing at length through pre-gathered reports from diverse sources allows a much deeper immersion in the material than browsing by keyword in an online database.

“It took 12 years to secure and find the funding to catalogue the collection properly – so it was no small job – but the Global History of Terrorism Archive now forms an invaluable resource to put St Andrews on the map for future generations of terrorism researchers.”

The collection will be added to the University’s archive catalogue in due course and will be fully searchable to make this global archive available to the research community.

Images of the folders that make up the Terrorism Archive.

Founded in 1994, the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews is Europe’s oldest centre for the study of terrorism. The CSTPV is dedicated to the study of the causes, dynamics, characteristics and consequences of terrorism and related forms of political violence. CSTPV academics provide research on terrorism and political violence around the globe and from across the political and cultural spectrum. In doing so, they are committed to rigorous, evidence-based, scholarly analysis that is policy-relevant but independent.

The extensive collection of files that form the basis of the Global History of Terrorism Archive (GHTA) were gifted to CSTPV founder, Professor Paul Wilkinson, by Richard Clutterbuck, former head of the Royal College of Defence Studies and Director of Control Risks Information Service, an organisation set up to evaluate the risks to business interests in any given country. The cuttings served as a pre-internet information resource where the background to conflicts, details of violent attacks and likely political or economic instability could be studied before giving advice.

Find out more on the Special Collections blog post and an overview by Dr Tim Wilson on the catalogue itself.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category Research

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