/  Research in practice

The project will focus on pre-WWI armed movements as agents of political mobilisation and radicalisation and as experiences and patterns which should be taken into account to explain post-war paramilitary movements also in those countries that did not experience ethnic conflicts, defeat or civil wars. In this regard, the focus on associative aspects can be really beneficial to understand whether the presence of armed associations as agents of mobilisation could represent an obstacle or resource for the emergence of authoritarian regimes.

These approaches allow us to analyse important issues like  the nationalisation process before the Great War, support of the War itself and also the origin of paramilitary movements in its aftermath, and mainly in Western Europe, which was not affected by the ethnic and geopolitical turmoil that characterised Eastern and Central Europe.

If political violence and armed associations were widespread also in neutral (Spain) or even victorious countries (Italy, Portugal), explanations and interpretative models based on the idea of First World War as the main cause for the emergence of paramilitary groups need to be amended and integrated.


in practice


The phenomenon of armed associations will firstly be studied from a national perspective. That should outline the national political framework which influenced the armed associations operating within a given country.

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In pre-WWI Europe, an armed association may be defined as non-state organisation of male civilians that acts publicly and in which the practice of violence is a legitimated course of action. Violence may be experienced as either an actual or potential practice.

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Transversal issues

The project seeks to compare the practices, social backgrounds and political cultures of armed associations and their connections with more general contexts, such as State, Church, other social movements and political cultures.

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 677199).

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