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Leiden University

Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice

Leiden University via Coursera


Delve into the research behind terrorism as you unpack the assumptions and impacts of both terrorism and counterterrorism. Terrorism has arguably been one of the defining factors of our age. It frequently makes headlines, threatening or attacking governments, private businesses, and ordinary citizens. In many parts of the world, it has been one of the most important threats to peace, security, and stability – but what does this mean exactly? On this six-week course from Leiden University, you’ll explore the essence of terrorism and discover why it is so difficult to define. Unpacking its history and the theory of the waves of terrorism, you’ll analyse both the theoretical approaches and practical applications of terrorism and counterterrorism in the real world. There are many assumptions that cloud the subjects of terrorism and counterterrorism. These myths are often created and intensified by individual bias, the government, and the media. On this course, you’ll discover different assumptions about terrorist identities and motivations, as well as the efficiencies of various counterterrorism efforts. You’ll then compare this with academic research to investigate the truth behind these assumptions. In your exploration of the impact of terrorism, you’ll delve into the culture of fear created by terrorism, as well as the success of counterterrorism policies to limit and manage its impact on society. In the final stage of this course, you’ll reflect on trends and developments in terrorism and counterterrorism. You’ll assess current academic research as well as what could be studied in the future to help.


  • Welcome & Introduction to the course
    • In this module, you will find all the information to successfully complete the course. After, we move to week 1, where we discuss the definition of terrorism: What exactly is terrorism? Who and where are its victims? By the end of this module, you will understand why having a generally accepted definition for the term 'terrorism' is difficult.
  • Researching terrorism and counterterrorism
    • In this module, we will discuss terrorism and counterterrorism studies, a field of study that owes much to research in related disciplines. You will get an overview of where the key centers and scholars are located. Also, we will talk about the three main approaches used in this academic field and recognize their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Assumptions on terrorism
    • The subject of terrorism often falls prey to unfounded assumptions. Media, politicians, even scholars, frequently make far-reaching claims about the topic. In this module, we will critically investigate some of these assumptions and discuss their validity.
  • Assumptions on counterterrorism
    • In this module, we will look into five assumptions on counterterrorism, which underlie CT-policy, both from an effectiveness perspective (is it really countering terrorism?), but also because these policies have a large impact on societies.
  • Dealing with the impact of terrorism
    • In this module, we will explore the concepts of fear management and resilience. We will look into the impact of terrorism in the society and ways we can deal with it, both in theory and in practice.
  • Trends and developments in (counter)terrorism
    • The final module of this course will discuss the trends and developments in terrorism and counterterrorism studies. What are some of the remaining “un- and under-researched” topics? Finally, we will look into the future of terrorism: what can be expected in the years to come?

Taught by

Edwin Bakker


4.8 rating, based on 25 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 3091 ratings

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  • Well structured course, very good professor.

    The course opens the way for futher study on the matter.

    Recommended for anyone who wants to have a relatively clear aspect of the issue.
  • RoosWilhelm
    Well-structured, very interesting course. Likeable prof, interesting guest speakers, good and insightful discussions with the online moderators. Investing some extra time (on the essays, the additional videos, articles and the movies recommended by prof Bakker) will not only give you a basic understanding of the concept of terrorism but will also change your perspective. Recommended.
  • MAMartin
    Very clear introduction to the state of the subject. As with all peer-reviewed writing tasks, the ones here were fairly crude; any reasonable effort gained a tops score but within these constraints they were worthwhile.
  • Anonymous
    Great course that empirically tests a number of myths around the world on terrorism and counterterrorism. The literature is up-to-date and the videos are very engaging. Very good instructor and would definitely recommend this course.
  • Mohammad Sajjad Haider
    The course gets a bit boring for my liking as it gets too theoretical. Could have been reduced to lesser number of lectures.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent professor, good structure with weekly quizzes, two essays and a final exam. Very interesting subject approached nicely. There will be a new session soon, I recommend it to everyone.
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    Tanja De Bie
    Very good academic approach of the subject, showing a state of the art of research . Useful to debunk some myths with an evidence based approach. European in style.
  • Profile image for Antonio Valdetaro
    Antonio Valdetaro
    Professor Bakker did it right, and stimulate all people around the world to get attention to this problem, and to collaborate to improove knowled to all of us.
  • Sergey Monin
    Excellent course on terrorism, everything is free unlike many other classes on Coursera: the exams and peer review works. Highly recommend
  • Anonymous
    Very good course. Well-structured, open approach, good community. The professor actually responds to input from the students every week.
  • Anonymous
    This course helps and alert nations about the dangers of terrorism,the course,how it can affect the economy
  • Dawn D Shaw
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    Renato Feijó Da Rocha
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    Camille Gallet
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    Josep Sort
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    Paul Müller
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    Paweł Klimczuk

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