I am interested in studying the history of domestic terrorism in the U.S., so I went looking for datasets to that effect. What I was hoping to find was a comprehensive repository that covered most, if not all of U.S. history, and included incidents like the Oklahoma city bombing, alongside attacks on abortionists, hate crimes, and lynchings in the post-Civil War era (In the best of all possible databases, the decimation of Native American communities and cultural practices would also be included, even though the FBI defines terrorism as requiring illegal acts, and often enough the crimes against these communities were legally-sanctioned). Additionally, I was hoping to find basic information on who the victims and perpetrators were (at least with regards to incidents from the last few decades), as well as historical context for each incident. Perhaps I went looking in the wrong place, but as of now it appears that such a comprehensive database doesn’t exist, which is odd and upsetting. However, I did find smaller, though still formidable, datasets that tackle parts of the problem. One of these is from the Global Terrorism Database, maintained by the University of Maryland, which provides information on terror attacks worldwide. Granted, their information only goes back as far as 1970 and it neither includes hate crimes nor legally-sanctioned terror against ethnic groups. That said, their dataset is still the most informative and usable of what I’ve found so far, because it consists of the raw data behind their charts (i.e. information on each and every incident counted). More often than not in my search I found well-meaning organizations that provided aggregate counts rather than the specific data that went into those aggregates, so I was very grateful to find Maryland’s GTD.
I am going to use it to a) mine its listings of domestic terrorism in the U.S. and b) to compare incidences of terror – both domestic and international – in the U.S. with terror in the Middle East. Over the course of this semester, I would like to work towards making animated visualizations of what I find in here. I am excluding events from the rest of the globe outside these two areas just for the sake of manageability.