Founded on Fear: Transnational Police Cooperation against the Anarchist ‘Conspiracy’, 1880s-1914

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


The closing decade of the nineteenth century opened up a new era in the history of policing when politicians, diplomats and policemen were moved into concerted action against the perceived threat of a worldwide anarchist conspiracy. Ever since the early 1890s, a string of anarchist terrorist activities, bombings and attentats hit the world in an unprecedented fashion. In contemporary minds, the actual threat and the number of incidents were exaggerated into an even more all-encompassing and dangerous menace. Despite being the era of bellicose nationalism, European police forces organized a cooperative, cross-border network against the background of the anarchist threat. This dissertation uncovers how the first wave of global terrorism was accompanied by the first substantial development of concerted counter terrorism: through tightening police relations, the development of modern technologies for identification and the exchange of uniform knowledge. Initially, this cooperative network was based on personal relations. The spectre of ‘anarchists’ was sufficient to spur police officials on towards concerted law enforcement in spite of conflicting national interests, political concerns with morality or the rule of law. Following the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth, such practices were embedded in institutions: all over the continent, central bureaus emerged for the central collection of anarchist intelligence, and to exchange intelligence directly, systematically and in standardized forms. Although this institutionalized network was increasingly limited by conflicting political interests, clashing ideologies and strategic military alliances, the alleged the anarchist ‘conspiracy’ had opened up a new era in the history of policing, including new standards for transnational policing that are still upheld today.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • de Graaf, Beatrice, Primary supervisor
  • Bach Jensen, Richard, Supervisor, External person
Award date10 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2020


  • terrorism
  • anarchism
  • political violence
  • history
  • police
  • cooperation
  • security
  • international relations
  • identification
  • institutions


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