Bringing the Insurgents Back In: Early Wars in British India

Terrorism and Political Violence

Author/s (editor/s):

Lilach Gilady, Joseph MacKay

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Lilach Gilady and Joseph MacKay, ‘Bringing the Insurgents Back In: Early Wars in British India’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 27(5) 2015: 797‒817.

What role do weaker actors play in determining the outcomes of irregular wars? The literature on counterinsurgency outcomes has tended to explain weak-side victory either as a result of informational asymmetries caused by constraints on counterinsurgent forces, or as a result of sub-optimal strategic choices by the state. We suggest that this underplays the role of insurgents themselves; we attempt to ‘bring the insurgents back in’, giving variation in insurgent polity a role in explaining their own victories and defeats. In order to do so, we focus inductively on a relatively novel pool of cases: Great Britain’s wars in India from the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. Doing so allows us to hold the counterinsurgent side constant while evaluating variance among the insurgents themselves. We find that variance on the insurgent side is indeed significant in determining outcomes, and suggest possible reasons why this occurs.

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