The Role of Foreign Influences in Early Terrorism: Examples and Implications for Understanding Modern Terrorism

The Role of Foreign Influences in Early Terrorism: Examples and Implications for Understanding Modern Terrorism

by James M. Lutz and Brenda J. Lutz



Globalisation has been linked with outbreaks of political violence and terrorism in the modern world. An analysis of Judean revolts against Rome and the Seleucid Greeks, individual suicide attacks in South and Southeast Asia in the 17th century to the early 20th century, and the Boxer Rebellion in China suggest that the intrusion of foreign influences had similar effects in the past.



Analysts of insurgency and terrorism have proposed a variety of explanations for outbreaks of such violence. One of the purported causes for such outbreaks has been the intrusion of foreign economic and/or cultural influences that disrupt local structures and systems. Local groups can react to the intrusion of these outside influences in a number of ways, including all types of political violence. While modern examples have been analyzed, it is possible that there were occurrences in less recent times that represented violent reactions to the impact of foreign influences. More specifically, the occurrence of various kinds of political violence in past eras will be considered. Two thousand years ago, on the Mediterranean littoral, Judea experienced numerous revolts during the periods of Greek and Roman dominance that reflected a reaction against economic and cultural changes occurring in the region. The appearance of Western traders and then conquerors in South and Southeast Asia in early modern times eventually led to Muslim suicide attacks in South and Southeast Asia as a response to the intrusion of Westerners. Finally, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Boxer Rebellion in China will be considered as an example of a violent reaction to foreign influences.

In the post-Cold War modern era it has been suggested that negative reactions to globalisation have increased. Globalisation is a complex process that has been defined in a variety of ways. There is some general agreement on components, including that in the economic sphere it is “the widening, deepening, and speeding up of international connectedness” [1]. Globalisation, however, goes beyond increased economic interactions. It has cultural, military, political, and social dimensions as well as the economic ones [2]. The possibility of such major effects from foreign influences being present and resulting in violent reactions has obviously been much greater with the increased speed of transportation and communication in the modern world. While such effects would have been more muted in the past, it is quite possible that they were present, and the examination of the Judean revolts, Muslim suicides, and the Boxer Rebellion can indicate linkages between the appearance of foreign influences and violence. These examples can also have implications for understanding the effects of contemporary globalisation.


Maccabee Revolt in Judea
The Maccabee revolt against the Greek Seleucid Empire started in 166 BCE. Judea had been part of one of the Greek successor states to the empire of Alexander the Great since 300 BCE. Initially there were no recorded problems in Judea, but with the passage of time tensions between some Jews and the Greeks began to increase. The trigger for the outbreak of outright rebellion was the decision of Antiochus IV to violate the tradition of religious toleration that had previously existed; in addition, there were efforts to restrict Jewish religious practices as part of a policy of the subsequent Seleucid emperors who attempted to create more cultural uniformity among subject populations, including those in Judea [3]. There was, moreover, an existing current of unrest in Judea that resulted from the fact that many Jews had adopted Greek practices and beliefs. The resort to religious repression that was linked to the actual revolt was actually part of an ongoing effort by the Seleucids to deal with the existing violence that was already challenging the state [4]. The conflict between Jews and Greeks was further exacerbated when Antiochus IV stripped the temple of gold and other wealth in order to build up the imperial treasury. While the desecration of the temple was an important event, much of the wealth of the temple had been promised to Antiochus by the new High Priest as part of his bribe to be confirmed in this religious position with elements of local political leadership [5]. (Such payments had come to be commonplace in Judea under the Seleucids with the post usually going to the highest bidder.) This set of events triggered an open revolt that was led in succession by Mattahias and then by his sons (collectively known as the Maccabees). The rebels relied on guerrilla warfare tactics and terrorist attacks as part of a broader arsenal of strategies to confront the Greeks and their collaborators in Judea [6]. Eventually, the Judean rebels were able to raise field armies and to engage Seleucid troops in conventional battles and managed to emerge as victors.

Clashing religious views were a definite source of contention between the Jewish dissidents and the pantheistic Seleucid state. The conflict also reflected differences within the Jewish community between those who had adopted Greek cultures and those who had not. The upper strata of Jewish society, including some priestly elements were attracted to the Greek culture [7]. The pro-Greek Jews in the ruling circles even welcomed the Seleucid emperor when he briefly conquered Jerusalem [8]. Prior to the rebellion of the Maccabees there were riots in the streets of Jerusalem, which had become the center of Greek culture. The violent confrontations involved street battles between those who had adapted to the Greek culture , and the more traditional religious elements who opposed the outside contamination [9]. In fact, the early attacks by the dissidents were mainly directed against Hellenised Jews who had assimilated into the dominant Greek culture and focused on population centers such as Jerusalem that had been strongly influenced by Greek culture [10]. The actions of Antiochus IV in seizing the wealth of the temple occurred in an already very volatile situation in Judea but did not create the unrest in the province. His violation of the temple, however, did greatly increase the volatility.
When the actual rebellion began, most of the Jewish elite continued to collaborate with the Seleucids, while other sections of the urban population remained opposed to the rebellion or were unwilling to actively participate on the dissident side. The Jewish collaborators included many members of the upper classes and others who benefited from an early form of globalisation (in this case Hellenisation). By supporting the Greek state, they were attempting to preserve their advantageous positions. The rebels thus attacked not only the Greek officials but started “a campaign terrorizing the Jews of the area who were willing to bow the knee before the Greek authority, and saw nothing amiss in integrating their religion and culture with that of their pagan neighbors” [11]. The rebels under the leadership of the Maccabees had the support of different groups in Jewish society. The very orthodox believers opposed to the pro-Greek leadership in Jerusalem provided early support for the rebellion [12]. Mattahias Maccabee was himself a priest who was at odds with the urban elite and the religious establishment. Other members of priestly groups that had lost status due to changes in the administration of the temple also joined the rebellion [13]. The violent opposition to the Seleucids and their local backers also had support among local villagers and peasants who were faring poorly in economic terms in competition with the Greeks who had penetrated Judean society [14]. All of these groups had already faced status loss or economic decline or were about to face such losses from the intrusion of the Greek social and economic systems. The cultural conflict between Greeks and Jews raged not only in Judea but spread into surrounding areas of the Seleucid Empire. Jews who sympathized with the traditionalists in Judea became targets for persecution and violent attacks by local Greeks in these neighboring provinces [15].
The Jewish revolt against the Seleucids clearly reflected the effects of foreign influences in this part of the world. The incorporation of Judea into Alexander’s empire after the defeat of the Persians introduced new ideas and a different culture directly into the area. Persian culture, like that of Babylonia or Egypt, had presented fewer challenges to Jewish society. Hellenisation, however, brought new cultural and economic influences into the region. The inclusion of Judea into the successor states of Alexander’s empire increased economic links with outside regions. The Greek influence was “more marked in economic life” where the presence of Greek merchants transformed commercial centers [16]. The Greeks established trade fairs as part of an effort to enhance commercial activity and promote local economic activity [17]. The Seleucids, in fact, became great merchants in this era [18]. Their trading efforts extended well beyond the borders of the empire; they developed maritime trading links across the Indian Ocean to South Asia and indirect links to China and the Far East [19].

Trade and the accompanying Greek culture brought advantages and opportunities to some of the inhabitants, but it was threatening the economic livelihood of others. While polytheistic religions in the Fertile Crescent and Egypt could easily adapt to the Greek pantheon of gods, monotheistic Judaism faced greater challenges. There were connections between the economic and societal pressures that came with increasing integration into a wider world. One consequence of the integration into the Greek world was the beginning of the migration of Jewish merchants and others to areas outside Judea. The strong Jewish community that inhabited Alexandria, a uniquely Greek city in Egypt founded by Alexander the Great, dates back to the 6th century BCE. This integration, however, generated opposition. There were rabbis who would not allow local Jews to participate in the trade fairs that came with the Greeks because of the pagan religious ceremonies that were celebrated and the potential for contamination by these foreign religious practices [20]. This fear had a basis in fact since for the Greeks there was a profitable symbiotic relationship between commercial activities and temples and religion [21]. All of these changes that were occurring in the region stimulated tensions that contributed to the outbreak of the revolt. Those in Judea who felt threatened by the foreign religious pressure and economic changes that came with globalisation and Hellenisation reacted violently, beginning with terrorist and guerrilla attacks. The rebels that began with tactics of the weak were ultimately successful in defeating the Seleucids in conventional battles in 141 BCE, creating an independent state.


Rome and the Judean Revolts
The independent Jewish state created by the Maccabees, however, lasted less than a century. Then Judea became part of the Roman Empire—first as a client kingdom and then as a province of the empire. The Roman period re-introduced outside influences into Jewish society since the province was once again exposed to greater external cultural and economic influences. The cultural influences remained predominately Greek in the eastern part of the empire. Thus, the victory of 141 BCE over the Seleucids did not survive in a cultural sense with the reappearance of Greek influences that entered Judea with the Romans. Economically and politically Judea was once again absorbed into an imperial state. While the Roman presence was initially accepted, tensions steadily increased as many of these same external influences once again penetrated into Jewish society, leading to three revolts. The initial attacks actually occurred as early as 6 CE (AD) [22]. The first open rebellion was the Great Revolt of 66 CE, the second occurred in 115 CE and was centered in Cyrene, Cyprus, and Egypt, and the third took place again in Judea in 132 CE. All three were put down by Roman troops, but only with some difficulty. All three rebellions, as was the case with the Maccabees, relied on terrorism and guerrilla tactics, as well as conventional field battles.

The Great Revolt itself was preceded by a major campaign of terrorism and guerrilla attacks. The Jewish rebellion included a number of different dissident organisations, but they all assassinated Roman officials and Jewish collaborators, spreading terror in Jerusalem and throughout Judea [23]. The Zealots, one of the dissident groups, targeted the Roman authorities in an effort to provoke violent responses from the state and to drive a wedge between Romans and Jews [24]. The rebels developed what is often seen as a modern technique, namely the kidnapping of individuals to exchange them for their own group members who had been captured and imprisoned. At one point they managed to capture the son of the High Priest and arranged to trade him for some of their imprisoned comrades [25]. These attacks, including a campaign of assassinations, helped to prepare the way for the full-fledged rebellion. An observer on the scene at the time, noted: “More terrible than the crimes themselves was the fear they aroused” [26]. The pro-Roman elements in Judea were effectively neutralized as it became extremely dangerous to oppose the dissident groups who wanted to separate from Rome. The small Roman garrison in the province could not cope with the unrest, and a relief force sent from Syria was defeated before it reached Jerusalem. It took major military campaigns to re-conquer the province and end the revolt in 70 CE.
Foreign influences increased with the incorporation of Judea into the Roman Empire. Economic interactions in particular rose. Rome dominated the Mediterranean Sea and facilitated commerce by the suppression of piracy. The empire provided for enhanced economic integration and greater commercial opportunities for those inside its borders than had previously existed [27]. The empire by its very presence and structure directly stimulated trade, and both the infrastructure of the imperial state necessary for political control and the imposition of taxation led to increased commerce [28]. Commercial ties outside the empire rose as well. Trade links with India  and indirectly with the Far East, inherited from the Greek period, were expanded [29]. The volume of goods transported in these maritime trade routes is generally considered to have peaked in the first century CE. Rome had in fact become the central node in an economy that linked southern Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia [30]. It was in the context of increasing contacts with other parts of the world that the Great Revolt began.

The lines of division within the Jewish community suggest that the dissidents were reacting to the intrusion of foreign influences and some of the negative effects that accompanied them. The Zealots and other dissidents were opposed by collaborators, who included merchants that benefited from the inclusion of Judea in the Roman Empire [31]. The moderate Jews who had accepted inclusion in the empire also counted amongst themselves many priests and others members of the elite [32]. It was not surprising, therefore, that the Jewish elite took a dim view of the militants who threatened their position and status [33]. The established priesthood also benefited from the empire. Members of these groups became the targets for the campaign of assassinations. There is some evidence that the attacks in Jerusalem convinced many in Judea—and even wealthy Jews living elsewhere in the Empire—to provide funds for the rebels in order to avoid becoming targets for assignation themselves [34].

The rebels, in contrast to pro-Roman elements, enjoyed the support of the lower classes that provided many of the recruits for the militant groups [35]. The dissidents even attacked and destroyed archival records, including loan documents that detailed the debts that the poor owed the rich, as a means of gaining the support of working class Jews who were burdened with heavy debts [36]. The anti-elite nature of the dissidents appeared in other ways. One of the dissident groups primarily attacked the local Jewish aristocracy, although all the competing groups joined forces to defend Jerusalem during the Roman siege [37]. Like the Maccabees before them, many of the rebels also included religious extremists opposed to Greek culture and the secularization of Judea; they wanted to reestablish a Jewish theocratic state led by the High Priest [38]. Rabbis continued to oppose the trade fairs that had continued to be held under the Romans [39]. The Zealots and other militants groups thus drew upon both economic and religious discontent in their revolt against inclusion in the Roman Empire.

The second Jewish revolt began in Cyrene (Cyrenica, northeast Libya) and spread to Egypt and Cyprus, lasting from 114 to 117 CE. While the sources on the causes of this rebellion are more obscure than those for the Great Revolt, it does appear to have been linked to tensions between Jews and the Greek culture in this part of the Roman Empire [40]. The dissidents eventually raised field armies to battle the Romans. Some of the participants in this revolt shared the views of the dissidents who had been involved in the Great Revolt in Judea [41]. There is less information available on the violent techniques used in the initial stages of the outbreak, so the relative importance of guerrilla tactics, terrorism, and conventional military tactics is not clear. The Romans had to mobilize additional troops to deal with the revolt, indicating that the dissidents were able to raise significant conventional military forces. During the earlier revolt in Judea the rebels had attacked Greeks and Greek temples, and during this insurrection the rebels also destroyed Greek temples and slaughtered Greeks when cities were captured [42]. It is noteworthy that the Jewish rebels did not attack other groups or their religious sites [43]. This focus on attacking the dominant Greek culture in this rebellion clearly suggests that foreign cultural influences were important in motivating individuals to join this revolt. This sizeable Jewish community was obviously opposed to the dominant Greek culture, and it is possible that they may also have fallen on economic hard times.

The third and final Jewish revolt was led by Bar Kokba and lasted from 132 to 135 CE.He claimed to be the messiah who had come to reestablish the Jewish religion and the Jewish state. The rebels once again mounted a significant campaign against the Romans and were even able to gain control of Jerusalem for a period of time. It took a major military effort, led by the Emperor Hadrian in person, to defeat the rebels [44]. The end result of this Roman military victory was the dispersion of the Jewish population to other parts of the empire as part of an effort designed to limit the danger of future uprisings. There may have been some economic issues behind this revolt. The Jewish elite, who had once again become attached to the Greek and Roman ways, opposed this rebellion as they had opposed the Great Revolt [45]. The elite obviously continued to be the economic beneficiaries of the imperial connection. The primary impetus for the revolt, however, appears to have been religious. There was some fear that Rome was going to secularize Judea by officially establishing the Roman pantheon of gods in place of Judaism [46]. There is evidence that the Romans did in fact interfere with the practice of Judaism in this period [47]. While suggestions that the Romans intended to interfere with the local religion may have been exaggerated, the fear of the religious elements in the local population that their beliefs were going to be challenged was all that was needed to raise a rebellion. Perceptions, whether correct or incorrect, can drive political actions. There is no doubt that the Greek and Roman religious practices did constitute a threat to Judaism, given the willingness of many Jews to assimilate to these practices.

All three of these revolts as well as the Maccabee revolt indicated that there were high levels of tension between the Jewish religion and culture on the one hand and the Greek and Roman culture and its pantheon of gods on the other. The intrusion of the Greek influences into the area generated a great deal of local antagonism. In the case of the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokba revolt, there were also obvious economic issues, many of which would have been related to the economic changes that had come with the empire. These economic issues contributed to the tension. The three revolts included a variety of violent techniques, often including terrorist tactics. The case of the Zealots in the prelude to the Great Revolt provides one early, very clear example of a terrorist campaign that for a while successfully neutralised those elements of the population who were loyal to Rome and opposed to a rebellion.


Pagsabil—Individual Muslim Suicide Attacks in Asia
The spread of European merchants and soldiers to South and Southeast Asia and the creation of Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Spanish empires generated protests and anti-colonial violence. There was one form of violence that appeared in the Muslim communities in India and Southeast Asia that began in the 17th century and continued through the early 20th century. It was a somewhat unique form of terrorism in that it largely involved efforts by individuals after local Muslim armies had already been defeated by the Europeans. Conventional military campaigns and even guerrilla warfare had failed to prevent the continuing European encroachment and conquest. Along with European political control came efforts by Christian missionaries to convert local populations. In reaction to these events, individual Muslims would then practice a form of suicidal attack called pagsabil (juramentado in Spanish in the Philippines). An individual would arm himself and attack any Europeans or their local Christian allies or other collaborators that he could find until he was killed. In a few cases two or three individuals would attack as a group. These attacks occurred in Malabar on the Indian coast—against the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. These attacks also occurred in Aceh in the Dutch East Indies and in the southern Philippines against the Spanish [48]. The attackers clearly expected to die in their assaults on symbols of alien rule and culture. The individuals involved in these attacks were apparently seeking to defend the integrity of the local community with its religious and cultural values by intimidating the colonisers   The resulting fear that they inspired in colonial authorities and other Europeans frequently did lead to better treatment of local Muslims and kept the colonial authorities from interfering too much in local Islamic communities [49]. The same techniques used against the Europeans were also later used as well by individual Muslim peasants in the Malabar Coast to obtain better treatment for Muslim tenants from Hindu landlords [50]. Local religious authorities or other leaders often blessed these ‘lone wolf’ attacks, but there was no formal organisation involved in the violence.
The suicide attacks were launched in a cultural context that recognized that this kind of resistance was a defense of the community against the outsiders—the attackers were often considered heroes and martyrs by  local populations. These suicide attackers saw themselves as defending local Muslim communities from the non-Muslim occupiers [51]. In the Philippines local Christians often became targets in the defense of the Muslim community since they were seen as collaborating with the Spanish [52]. The response by the local authorities to these attacks was often fairer treatment of local Muslims and the modification of objectionable policies. Since there was turnover among colonial bureaucrats, merchants, and other representatives of the European colonial society, periodic outbreaks of pagsabil were frequently necessary to emphasize the need to respect local religious sensibilities. While the attacks were somewhat unusual when compared to others kinds of political violence that might have been attempted, they were ostensibly effective.
The confrontation of different civilizations and the associated value clash of cultures (in this case colonialism) help to explain this type of violence. The suicide attacks were reactions to the encroachment of new ideas that came with the arrival of the Europeans, first as explorers and traders and then as conquerors. The Europeans, beginning with the Portuguese clearly disrupted the existing political and commercial situations in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Much of the trading activities were in the hands of Muslim merchants, and the Europeans (especially the Portuguese and Spanish) sought to eliminate such middlemen for religious as well as economic reasons [53]. The suicide attacks were a manifestation of the confrontation between the local population and the colonizing Western powers [54]. The violent interaction in these cases provides an example of a clash between different civilizations. The arrival of the Europeans was a direct consequence of the expansion of the global economy. It was the spices and other goods of the Far East that attracted the explorers and the merchants in the first place. While the appearance of the Europeans initially disrupted regional trade, it eventually led to an increase in commercial links in the region. As the European dominance became more firmly established, overall trade increased. By the 1800s the increased Asian trade consisted primarily of the exchange of raw materials for manufactured goods [55]. Even though the Dutch attempted to dismantle the local trading networks in their area of control (today’s Indonesia) and replace them with Dutch merchants, local traders, however, managed to establish new networks that then co-existed with the Dutch [56]. As the Europeans became more firmly established in the region, the level of exports from the Dutch Indies to Europe increased significantly [57]. Trade between the Dutch territories and India also rose during this period [58].

The Europeans were in the process of creating a new economic system that meant that many local producers and merchants in Asia were losing economic opportunities, wealth, and status. Political conquest obviously changed local patterns of rule. European commercial interests were able to displace local economic activity. European trade with India, for example, contributed to the eventual deindustrialization of India [59]. The arrival of Christian clergy and missionaries from the European countries exacerbated the effects of other changes by increasing cultural tensions between the Europeans and the indigenous populations. Not only was the political independence and economic well-being of parts of the local populations threatened by the expanding global reach of the Europeans, the foreign religion also threatened their religious and social systems. The cultural importance of these attacks was obvious since they persisted into the early 20th century, although occurrences were more rare as time went by [60]. The importance of the religious element in the attacks was obvious because when the United States took over the Philippines from Spain, these kinds of attacks ended once the inhabitants realized that efforts at conversion to Christianity had ceased [61]. Many of the local inhabitants were not specifically opposed to foreign political rule; they were, however, more determined to resist the attempts to convert them.


The Boxer Rebellion
China was also affected by the European expansion and imperialism that unsettled populations in South Asia and Southeast Asia, although the effects were felt somewhat later in China. Distance postponed the arrival of Western influences, and China in this period was also withdrawing into itself. Eventually China was pulled into greater interactions with outside powers, and local producers saw European goods displacing those from China [62]. China was required to enter the international economic system through the treaty ports that were forced to be open to European trade. The first Sino-Japanese War over Korea (1894-95) demonstrated Chinese vulnerability, and the German takeover of Tsingao in the Shantung Peninsula (1898) accelerated the pressure on China. As China faced losses in territory, the United States in conjunction with Great Britain worked to maintain the Open Door Policy with regards to maintaining Chinese openness to imports from all foreign producers [62]. The Open Door Policy was designed to permit all countries, including European colonial possessions, to have access to continued trade with China, increasing China’s interactions with the rest of the world.

Almost every aspect of Chinese society was under assault from Western influences during this period. The Chinese economy was disrupted by the arrival of Western merchants and goods, and by the late 19th century advanced Western military technology. The disruption went beyond economic changes. Social status was threatened by the presence of Europeans. Perhaps the most obvious symbol of the political, social, and economic assault on traditional Chinese society were the extraterritoriality provisions of treaties which required that in criminal or civil cases involving a European (or Japanese) and a Chinese, the case would be tried in a European court of law rather than a Chinese court. This extraterritorial principle indicated that the Chinese legal system was considered inferior and could not provide a fair trial for Europeans. These provisions provided almost daily and demeaning reminders of the position of Chinese in their own country.

One consequence of this forced integration of China into the Western economic and political system was the Boxer Rebellion. Anti-colonial opposition to integration into Western economies did not rely on suicide attacks as had for a long time been the case in South and Southeast Asia. The Boxer Rebellion initially relied on conventional terrorist tactics and eventually on military attacks as part of an effort to drive out European influences that were perceived as undermining Chinese society. The Boxers (the Society of the Righteous Harmonious Fists) originated as a secret society in China. Such secret societies have had a long history in China, but  proliferated since the late eighteenth century  in response to increased threats to Chinese identity [64]. These secret societies were often willing to use political violence to maintain their position, gain economic advantage, and bring about political change.

The Boxer Rebellion broke out at the end of the nineteenth century. The Boxers were intent on driving all foreign influences out of China. They were able to draw upon the increasing discontent with the foreign presence in China that appeared in the 1890s. In the earlier years there had been riots that targeted foreigners and Chinese Christians [65]. These attacks were supported by both local officials and secret societies as they shared the same antipathy towards Western influences [66]. The Chinese regarded Christian missionaries as the vanguard of a movement to attack Chinese culture. Chinese Christians came to be seen as part of this attack, and in point of fact missionaries and converts were used by European powers as a means of gaining greater influence in areas of possible colonial expansion [67]. The Christians, as a consequence, were attacked for cultural rather than religious reasons.

The actions of the Boxers were a continuation of previous actions protesting the intrusion of Western products and values into Chinese society. It is worth noting that the Boxers originated in the Shantung area where Germany had recently established a sphere of influence and founded a small colony [68]. The Boxers, like earlier groups, attacked the foreigners and Western inventions such as railroads and the telegraph. Chinese Christians continued to be targets[69]. The Boxers eventually escalated the violence and attacked the foreign diplomats in the capital of Peking [70]. These attacks led to the intervention of a multinational military force from the European countries, Japan, and the United States. These modern Western forces were able to defeat the Boxers and the Chinese military units that joined them with the encouragement of the Chinese monarchy. When the Western forces reached the Chinese capital and raised the siege of the foreign legations, the Chinese government was forced to pay reparations for the damages done. This violent response to Western penetration had failed.

The Boxer Rebellion clearly represented a clash of cultures or civilizations just as the suicide attacks by Muslims in the earlier example did. The Boxer uprising was a spontaneous uprising of those Chinese to the increasing Western presence in China, and it had strong support from the Chinese who had been displaced by the modern technology that came with ‘globalisation’ in the form of  imperialism [71]. The involvement of the Chinese displaced by Western technology in earlier violence and the Boxer Rebellion itself was a direct consequence of economic penetration. While the Boxer Rebellion has often been portrayed as a unique episode in Chinese history, in fact, it was just one episode among many violent responses to the intrusion of foreign influences [72]. The involvement of court officials and elements of the military who later joined the rebellion reflected a “last desperate attempt to preserve the integrity of Chinese civilization” [73]. The failure of the Boxer Rebellion started the process that led to the end of the Chinese monarchy.


Implications for Understanding the Links between Globalisation and Modern Terrorism

The above examples from earlier times can be related to the effects that foreign influences and globalisation can have on outbreaks of contemporary terrorism. Today an increasingly integrated global economy has meant that countries are now more connected to each other. Economic globalisation has led to increased prosperity in general, but the resulting gains have not been equally or equitably distributed [74]. The spread of market capitalism that often accompanied globalisation has modified and in some cases almost destroyed the structure of local economies [75]. Further, there are indications that globalisation in the 20th century has led to greater inequality among countries and within countries [76]. Globalisation can have the most negative impacts for lower classes as well as for poorer states since they are least able to take advantage of the opportunities that come with greater interactions [77]. Clearly the inclusion of Judea in the Greek and Roman empires resulted in gains for some and losses for others. The economic networks that expanded under Roman auspices, in fact, “might properly be seen as a classical form of globalization” [78]. The intrusion of European traders and conquerors in South and Southeast Asia and China also resulted in major disruptions.

Globalisation has generated stress on local societies in other ways. Socially dissimilar groups come into closer physical proximity to each other [79]. Increased proximity can generate tensions between groups that would not otherwise exist. The interactions of Greeks with Jews generated major animosities that appeared in the Judean revolts, and social and cultural conflicts were underlying the pagsabil attacks and the Boxer Rebellion. Regions that are already more integrated into the modern global system may have increased stability, but those countries first undergoing the process of integration will be likely to suffer greater disruption and difficulties [80]. The societal and economic stress that comes with globalisation can generate new opposition from groups in society at the same time that the process has weakened local government [81]. In the historical cases above, the process of integration involved major disruptions of local societies, but the dissidents were often facing powerful governments.

In the modern world globalisation has resulted in changes that have been linked with outbreaks of political unrest, including terrorist violence, from a variety of groups. Left-wing terrorist groups which were prevalent in the second half of the twentieth century focused on the evils that accompanied the spread of global capitalism [82]. They attacked multinational corporations that were increasingly viewed as symbolic of economic (capitalist) globalisation, similar to the economic disruptions. Groups with right-wing ideologies have also reacted to what they see as the negative effects of globalisation. They have opposed the migration of workers from culturally and religiously dissimilar areas. Current immigration debates in the United States and Europe reflect these concerns, and some of the more extreme groups in these industrialized regions have adopted terrorism as one response [83]. Ethnic terrorism can be a reaction to globalisation. Smaller ethnic communities can see their cultures in danger of being overwhelmed or absorbed by the homogenizing trends that are associated with globalisation, and they sometimes react violently [84]. In the historical cases there were clearly violent reactions to the appearance of other ethnic groups.

Both early and contemporary globalisation has  also generated opposition from various religious groups. The intrusion of foreign ideas and beliefs has been seen as undermining traditional religious values in many traditions [85]. Capitalism that has been associated with contemporary globalisation has undermined spiritual and moral frameworks [86]. Muslim groups have focused on the threats that globalisation presents to their interpretation of Islam [87]. Clearly the pagsabil attacks reflected such a response to external threats. Islam, however, is not the only religion to see external threats from globalisation. Militant Hindus in India have attempted to drive out foreign religious influences [88]. Christian groups in the United States have negatively reacted to the supposed evils of secular humanism that has spread throughout much of the world, challenging their own values. Jewish extremist groups in Israel have not only targeted Palestinians; there have also been occasional isolated attacks against other Israeli citizens who are considered to be too secular [89]. The Aum Shinryko cult in Japan was concerned about cultural and religious deterioration that was attributed to globalisation [90].


The above case analyses have indicated that foreign influences had a number of obvious negative impacts on societies and economies in the past and contributed to outbreaks of violence, including terrorism. The foreign influences almost always went beyond economic effects, to include significant cultural and social effects as well. The penetration of external cultural forces and economic activities were important sources of political discontent and the resulting violence. The various Judean revolts, the pagsabil suicide attacks, and the Boxer Rebellion all clearly represented reactions to both economic and cultural threats that came with globalisation, but the greater threat appears to have been cultural in these cases. The Boxer Rebellion had a similar trajectory in terms of cultural conflict and the clash of civilizations that reinforced the economic dislocations and threats to the well-being of important indigenous groups. The individual Muslim suicide attacks in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines reflected a clear clash between different civilizations. There is, however, also some evidence about economic deprivation as a contributing factor of this violence. In the case of Malabar in India, the fact that Hindu landlords became targets would suggest that economic concerns were of greater relevance.

The spread of foreign influences has obviously had negative effects on a number of political systems in past centuries. Yet the ways in which the intrusive activity created problems has varied. It is apparently not so much the absolute level of these influences that would be important as the relative level of change that occurred. In periods of active foreign penetration or globalisation, small changes would not trigger larger effects had these not come on top of previous changes. Small changes, however, could have a greater impact when there have been relatively fewer external influences as was the case in the past. In the above examples, the changes were large in relative terms and sometimes in absolute terms as Judea, South and Southeast Asia, and China were drawn into increased interactions with outside areas. When the effects from foreign events or linkages are new, the economic displacement or the creation of disadvantages for some important groups in various societies is more likely. At least some of these groups may then respond violently.

What the above analysis could not answer is why foreign influences or in current parlance, globalisation, leads to outbreaks of terrorism in some cases but not in others. What are the other factors that contribute? What are the roles of religious differences and the clash of cultures? It does appear from the above cases that political violence and terrorism occur when there are religious, and associated cultural, differences involved (Jewish versus Greek; Muslim versus Christian; Chinese Confucianism versus Christian). Factors other than foreign influences, however, can be important in such outbreaks. Economic disruption reinforced by such religious/cultural differences or religious/cultural disruptions reinforced by economic disruption appears to constitute an important confluence of factors that frequently led to such outbreaks in the past, and suggest that such a confluence could also contribute to contemporary as well as future political violence.


About the Authors: Dr. James M. Lutz is a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. Dr. Brenda J. Lutz is a Research Associate at the Decision Sciences and Research Institute at Indiana University. They have collaborated in researching various aspects of terrorism.


[1] Anthony McGrew, “The Logics of Economic Globalization,” in John Ravenhill (Ed.),
Global Political Economy
, 3rd ed. Oxford: University Press, 2011, p. 275. Also, in the popular 1995 book Jihad vs. McWorld, political theorist Benjamin Barber described a collision between two forces: one, an integrative modernization and aggressive economic and cultural globalisation; and the other, a fragmentary tribalism and reactionary fundamentalism. Further, he argued, as globalisation has led to increasing interdependence, we must learn to contain and regulate the anarchy that foments both the destructiveness of terrorists and the injustices of global capital. See Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Times Books, 1995.

[2] Ibid., p. 277.

[3] Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger, Jewish Terrorism in Israel, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, p. 2.

[4] Alyn Brodsky, The Kings Depart: The Saga of the Empire Judah Maccabee Created and His Heirs Destroyed, New York: Harper and Row, 1974, pp. 58-9; Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 2006, p. 22.

[5] A. Brodsky, op. cit., p. 58.

[6] A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit. p. 1.

[7] A. Brodsky, op. cit. p. 39;  Steven L Derfler, The Hasmonean Revolt: Rebellion or Revolution, Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Studies, Vol. 5, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989, pp. 44, 49.

[8] Joan E. Taylor, “A Second Temple in Egypt: The Evidence for the Zadokite of Onias,” Journal for the Study of Judaism: In the Persian, Hellenistic, & Roman Period, Vol. 29, No. 3 (1998), p. 310.

[9] S. L. Derfler, op. cit., pp. 50-51.

[10] A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 3.
[11] John M. Allegro, The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish History from the Time of the Exile until the Revolt of Bar Kocheba, Sixth Century B.C. to Second Century A. D. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

[12] S. L. Defler, op. cit. p. 54;  Joseph Sievers, The Hasmoneans and their Supporters: From Mattathias to the Death of John Hycarnus I, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990, p. 34.

[13] S. J. D. Cohen, op. cit., p. 23; J. Sievers, op. cit., p. 39.

[14] S. L. Defler, op. cit., pp. 72-3; A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 2; J. Sievers, op. cit., p. 37.

[15] J. Sievers, op. cit., p. 52.

[16] C. G. F. Simkin, The Traditional Trade of Asia, London: Oxford University Press, 1968, pp. 9-10.

[17] Yehudah B. Cohn, “The Graeco-Roman Trade Fair and the Rabbis,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 131, No. 2 (2011), p. 187.

[18] C. G. F. Simkin, op. cit., p. 258.

[19] Matthew P. Fitzpatrick, “Provincializing Rome: The Indian Ocean Trade Network and Roman Imperialism,” Journal of World History, Vol. 22, No. 1 (2011), p. 29.

[20] Cf. Y. B. Cohn, op. cit.

[21] Barbara Levick, “The Roman Economy: Trade in Asia Minor and the Niche Market,” Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 51, No. 2 (2004), p. 191.

[22] Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin, “Zealots and Assassins,” in Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin (Eds.), The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda, trans. Edward Schneider, Kathryn Pulver, and Jesse Browner. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, p. 55.

[23] Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. G. A. Williamson, New York: Dorset Press, 1981, David C. Rapoport, “Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (1984), pp. 658-77; Rose Mary Sheldon, ‘Taking on Goliath: The Jews against Rome, AD 66-73,” Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1994), p. 3.

[24] A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 6.

[25] J. M. Allegro, op. cit., p. 278.

[26] Josephus, op. cit., p. 147.

[27] Peter Fibiger Bang, “Trade and Empire: In Search of Organizing Concepts for the Roman Economy,” Past and Present, No. 195 (2007), pp. 3-54.

[28] B. Levick, op. cit., pp. 187-8.

[29] C. G. F. Simkin, op. cit., p. 15.

[30] M. P. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., pp. 30-31, 45.

[31] J. M. Allegro, op. cit., p. 277

[32] Walter Reich, “Understanding Terrorist Behaviour: The Limits and Opportunities of Psychological Inquiry,” in Walter Reich (Ed.), Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998, pp. 261-79.

[33] G. Chaliand and A. Blin, op. cit., 56.

[34] J. M. Allegro, op. cit. p. 277, and Walter Laqueur, A History of Terrorism, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001, p. 8.

[35] G. Chaliand and A. Blin, op. cit., 56;  A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 5.

[36] G. Chaliand and A. Blin, op. cit., p. 58.

[37] A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 5.

[38] Shimon Applebaum, “The Zealots: The Case for Reevaluation,” Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 61 (1971), p. 169.

[39] Cf. Y. B. Cohn, op. cit.

[40] S. J. D. Cohen, op. cit., pp. 24-5.

[41] D. C. Rapoport, op. cit., p. 668.

[42] Ibid., p. 669, and Josephus, op. cit., pp. 168-9.

[43] Alexander Fuks, “Aspects of the Jewish Revolt in AD 115-117,” Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 51, No. 1/2 (1961), pp. 98-104.

[44] Werner Eck, “The Bar Kokhba Revolt: The Roman Point of View,” Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 89 (1999), pp. 76-89.

[45] W. Reich, op. cit., p. 263.

[46] S. J. D. Cohen, op. cit., p. 25.

[47] Richard Kalmin, “Rabbinic Traditions about Roman Persecution of the Jews: A Reconsideration,” Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 54, No. 1 (2003), pp. 21-50.

[48] Karin Andriolo, “Murder by Suicide: Episodes from Muslim History,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No. 3 (2002), pp. 736-742; Thomas M. McKenna, “Murdered or Martyred: Popular Evaluations of Violent Death in the Muslim Separatist Movement in the Philippines,” in: Jeffrey A. Sluka (Ed.), Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror,Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000, p. 193.

[49] Stephen Frederic Dale, “Religious Suicide in Islamic Asia: Anticolonial Terrorism in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1988), p. 49.

[50] Ibid., pp. 48-9.

[51] T. M. McKenna, op. cit., p. 193.

[52] K. Andriolo, op. cit., p. 738.

[53] S. F. Dale, op. cit., p. 43.

[54] Ibid., p. 56.

[55] C. G. F. Simkin, op. cit., p. 267.

[56] Heather Sutherland, “The Makassar Malays: Adaptation and Identity, c. 1660-1790,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2001), p. 398.

[57] Alex Gordon, “Netherlands East Indies: The Large Colonial Surplus of Indonesia, 1878-1939,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2010), pp. 425-43; Gerrit Knaap, “All about Money: Maritime Trade in Makassar and West Java around 1775,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), pp. 482-508; C. G. F. Simkin, op. cit., p. 316.

[58] G. Knapp, op. cit., p. 504.

[59] David Clingingsmith and Jeffrey G. Williamson, “Deindustrialization in 18th and 19th Century India: Mughal Decline, Climate Shocks and British Industrial Ascent,” Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 45, No. 3 (2008), pp. 209-34.

[60] S. F. Dale, op. cit., pp. 54-5.

[61] Ibid., p. 54; T. M. McKenna, op. cit., p. 193.

[62] C. G. F. Simkin, op. cit., pp. 266-7.

[63] Jason Colby, “The Spanish-American War and Imperialism,” in Robert J McMahon and Thomas W. Zeiler (Eds.), U.S. Foreign Policy: A Diplomatic History, Vol. 1, Los Angeles: CQ Press, 2012, pp. 97-8.

[64] David Ownby, Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in Early and Mid-Qing China: The Formation of a Tradition, Stanford, CA Stanford University Press, 1996, pp. 2-3.

[65] William J. Duiker, Cultures in Collision: The Boxer Rebellion, San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1978, pp. 33-34; Charton M. Lewis, “Some Notes on the Lo-lao Hui in Late Ch’in China,” in: Jean Chesneaux (Ed.), Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972, pp. 108-9.

[66] Guy Puyraimond, “The Ko-lao Hui and the Anti-Foreign Incidents of 1891,” in: Chesneaux (Ed.), Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972, pp. 121-2.

[67] Leon Comber, Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya: A Survey of the Triad Society from 1800 to 1900, Monographs of the Association for Asian Studies 6, Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1959, p. 77.

[68] Jean Chesneaux, “Secret Societies in China’s Historical Evolution,” in: Jean Chesneaux (Ed.), Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972, p. 10.

[69] W. J. Duiker, op. cit., pp. 65-7, 103.

[70] Ibid., p. 40.

[71] Ibid., p. xvii.

[72] J. Chesneaux, op. cit. , p. 10.

[73] W. J. Duiker, op. cit., p. 206.

[74] Thomas Oatley, International Political Economy, 5th ed., New York: Longman, 2012, pp. 346, 348-9.

[75] Michael Mousseau, “Market Civilization and Its Clash with Terror,” International Security, Vol. 27, No. 3 (2002/3), pp. 5-29.

[76] Robert Hunter Wade, “Globalization, Growth, Poverty, Inequality, Resentment, and Imperialism,” in John Ravenhill (Ed.), Global Political Economy, 3rd ed. Oxford: University Press, 2011, p. 387.

[77] Theodore H. Cohn, Global Political Economy, 6th ed. New York: Longman, 2012, p.383.

[78] M. P. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., p. 28.

 [79] Brynjar Lia, Globalisation and the Future of Terrorism, London: Routledge, 2005, p. 23.

[80] Margit Bussman and Gerald Schneider, “When Globalization Discontent Turns Violent: Foreign Economic Liberalization and Internal War,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2007), pp. 79-97.

[81] Ekkart Zimmermann, “Globalization and Terrorism,” European Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 27, Supplement (2011), p. 154.

[82] Paul R. Pillar, Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001, p. 63.

[83] Tore Bjorgo, “Introduction,” in Tore Bjorgo (Ed.), Terror from the Extreme Right, London: Frank Cass, 1995, p. 9; Paul Wilkinson, “Why Modern Terrorism? Differentiating Types and Distinguishing Ideological Motivations,” in: Charles W. Kegley, Jr. (Ed.), The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003, p. 119.

[84] Brenda J. Lutz and James M. Lutz, “Terrorism,” in Jeffrey Ian Ross (Ed.), Religion and Violence: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict from Antiquity to the Present, Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2010, pp. 741-3.

[85] Benjamin J. Barber, “Shrunken Sovereign: Consumerism, Globalization, and American Emptiness,” World Affairs, Vol. 170. No. 4, 2008, p. 76, notes the conflict between capitalism and religion, a point covered in depth in Jihad vs. McWorld.

[86] James Dingley and Michael Kirk-Smith, “Symbolism and Sacrifice in Terrorism,” Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 13, No. 1 (2002), pp. 102-28.

[87] Abdelkerim Ousman, (2004) “The Potential of Islamist Terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa,” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2004), p. 69.

[88] H. D. S. Greenaway, “Hindu Nationalism Clouds the Face of India,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2001), pp. 89-93.

[89] A. Pedahzur and A. Perliger, op. cit., p. 33.

[90] James M. Lutz and Brenda J. Lutz, Global Terrorism, London: Routledge, 2008, p. 100.

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