ERC Securing Europe, Fighting its enemies, 1815-1914


Securing Europe, fighting its anarchists. Transnational police networks in the struggle against terrorism, 1881-1914

By Wouter Klem MA –

N0716135_JPEG_1_12DMThe cruel bombings and cold-blooded assassinations committed by reckless anarchist terrorists formed a sharp contrast with gracious reveries of Belle Époque Europe. Not merely statesmen and royals, but also the bourgeoisie and middlemen could be hit by erupting bombs in cafés and theatres from the early 1880s onwards. In the minds of contemporaries, the anarchists not only existed as poor, border-crossing, individuals, but rather as a shadowy collective; a world-spreading terrorist conspiracy or “Black International” co-operatively aimed at the destruction of all social order. This image was supported by visualising powers of illustrated mass media, crudely operating police informants and expanding means of communication and transportation.

This fastening of time and space did not only contribute to the threat image, but also to the means to counter it. Within this context, a security regime was established, manifesting itself through transnational police networks. Police officials across the continent and beyond got in touch with one another to fight terrorism. This research project not merely points to the existence of such networks, but rather studies the role of such networks in visualising the anarchist threat, in spreading new technologies and in professionalising security services in Europe and beyond.

Various case studies will demonstrate how such police networks avoided devious diplomatic procedures and operated in more direct lines, by highlighting study trips, participations in conferences and relations that were maintained among the influential policemen through letters and telegrams. Therefore, the battle against anarchism contributed to more professionalised policing. In most cases, experiences were used to reorganize the police forces back home or abroad, ranging from the Netherlands to Germany, Austria to Britain, France to the Ottoman Empire, and so on. Moreover, these cases will demonstrate the dynamics and workings of such transnational police networks that formed this security regime, aimed against the threat of anarchist terrorism.