Thomas Thornton

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Thomas Perry Thornton was an early writer on terorism.


Described as the 'single most seminal article on terrorism'[1], Thornton developed a typology of the proximate objectives of terrorism:

  1. . morale-building (within the terrorist movement itself as well as in that element of the population that is already sympathetic to the insurgents)
  2. . advertising (not only calls attention to the existence of the insurgents but also serves as a reminder of their program and ideals ... The advertising function differs from morale-building in that it is directed towards a mass audience)
  3. . disorientation (the objective par excellance of the terrorist, removing the underpinnings of the order in which his targets live out their daily lives)
  4. . elimination of opposing forces (either physically or by neutralizing their effectiveness. In one sense, this is a byproduct of terror, for the aim in itself is not symbolic, it could be accomplished by murder) ... From elimination of a harmful individual, not only will general disorientation be promoted, but a more specific fear will be instilled into the group to which the victims belongs
  5. . provocation of countermeasures by the incumbents (in combating an elusive terrorist, the incumbents will be forced to take measures that affect not only the terrorist but also his environment, the society as a whole. Although this result may be incidental to the aims of some terrorists, terroristic acts often are committed with the express purpose of provoking reprisals).[2]

Biographical Information


Current activities



Publications, Contact, Resources and Notes


  • Thornton, T. P. (1964): Terror as a Weapon of Political Agitation, in: Eckstein, Harry, ed. Internal War: Problems and Approaches. London: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964.





  1. Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, & Literature By Alex Peter Schmid, A. J. Jongman, Michael Stohl Published by Transaction Publishers, 2005 - Google Books Result
  2. Typologies du terrorisme, accessed 7 January 2009