Guerillas or Terrorists? Evidence from Google Books’ Ngram viewer

Google Books’ Ngram viewer allows you to chart the changing usage of phrases over time by searching the contents of more than five million books published in the course of the past 200 years. The graph below shows the results of a search I ran comparing usage of the terms ‘guerilla’ and ‘terrorist’ since 1800. It shows that usage of the term terrorist has sky-rocketed since the late 1960s while use of the term guerilla has been in steady decline since about the same time. It reflects the value of the term ‘terrorism’ in delegitimising armed opponents in an increasingly media-sensitive world. It illustrates the intensification in recent decades of struggles between states and armed challengers over the legitimation of organised violence.

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About niallodoc

Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway
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