Does Violent Secessionism Work?

Ryan D. Griffiths, Louis M. Wasser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that the strategic use of violence may increase a group’s chance of gaining independence. We investigate this topic using comprehensive data on all secessionist movements between 1900 and 2006 and an original data set on the institutional and extrainstitutional methods that secessionists have used from 1946 to 2011. Our analysis yields several important findings. First, strategy depends on context. Not all secessionist movements are the same, and many have legal and/or institutional routes to independence that shape the methods that they employ. Second, no secessionist movement challenging a contiguous state has won its sovereignty without using institutional methods, either exclusively or in combination with extrainstitutional methods. Finally, we identify four successful combinations of secessionist methods and discuss how these movements develop in relation to their strategic setting. Overall, we find no evidence that violence helps a secessionist movement to gain independence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1310-1336
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • civil wars
  • conflict
  • internal armed conflict
  • rebellion
  • separatism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Does Violent Secessionism Work?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this