RAND/Terrorism Chronology Database

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Concept.png RAND/Terrorism Chronology Database
Founder(s)Brian Jenkins
A large but selective database of incidents of "terrorism".

The RAND Terrorism Chronology Database, also known as the RAND-St Andrews Chronology of Terrorism is a database of international terrorist incidents that occurred between 1968 and 2009. It was developed by Bruce Hoffman whilst he was at the University of St. Andrews, and was later maintained by students at the university. It purports to be a comprehensive database of international terrorist incidents, but has some obvious omissions such as Operation Gladio events and the 2001 Mexican legislative assembly attack.


The database was developed after the US State Department and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) approached the RAND Corporation and asked its researchers to examine trends in "international terrorism". [1] The database was developed by Brian Jenkins in 1972 originally on 3” x 5” cards. [2] Jenkins left the RAND Corporation to become a managing partner at Kroll Associates, and the datebase was taken over by Bruce Hoffman. Hoffman took over the database, assumed directorship of the program, and expanded it to include domestic as well as international terrorism.[3]

2001 Expansion

For a brief time the Chronology was jointly held by RAND and the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence and known as the RAND-St Andrews database, but this ended in 1997, and the database lay dormant until 2001. That year RAND recieved funding from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and developed the Terrorism Incident Database, which documented terrorism incidents from 1998 onwards. That new database in turn formed part of the now discontinued Terrorism Knowledge Base.[4]

Important Omissions

As of February 2018, the database included 40129 events, but these appear to be quite selectively chosen. Possibly, it excludes any events carried out by NATO's Operation Gladio. The database makes no mention of the Peteano bombing of 31 May 1972, or the Bologna massacre of 2 August 1980 (which killed 85 people and wounded more than 200) or of the Brabant Massacres. It also makes no mention of the 2001 Mexican legislative assembly attack, in which two Israelis were caught with grenades and guns in the Mexican parliament.[5]


In a 2005 article, British academics Jonny Burnett and Dave Whyte criticised the methodology employed in the compilation of the database, which was and is the basis of much of the mainstream terrorism research:

“Since the RAND-St Andrews chronology only records those incidents that are ‘international’, the database is orientated towards the recording of attacks on foreign visitors to, and military occupiers of, relatively poor countries. By definition those victims are normally business representatives and military personnel from economically strong, normally Western, nations. The second observation, which reinforces this latter point, is that the Chronology explicitly excludes acts of state terror committed by any government against its own citizens, and acts of violence occurring in war or in war-like situations. Incidents involving Western armies of occupation and businesses are included in the Chronology only where they are victims rather than the perpetrators of violence. Third, some of the methodological inconsistencies in the use of data in the Chronology database are reminiscent of the counter-insurgency position. It is possible to find non-violent activities and protests against state violence recorded in the database as "terrorism."”
Jonny Burnett,  Dave Whyte [6]

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  1. Laura Dugan, Gary LaFree, Kim Cragin, Anna Kasupski, 'Building and Analyzing a Comprehensive Open Source Data Base on Global Terrorist Events (PDF)' (National Institute of Justice/NCJRS, March 2008 p.11
  2. Brian K. Houghton, 'Terrorism Knowledge Base: A Eulogy (2004-2008)', Perspectives on Terrorism Volume II, Issue 7
  4. RAND Website, The RAND Worldwide Terrorism Incident Knowledge Database Project, (accessed 22 March 2008)
  5. http://web.archive.org/web/20011123125618/http://www.pgr.gob.mx/cmsocial/bol01/oct/b69701.html
  6. http://www.jc2m.co.uk/Issue%204/Burnett&Whyte.pdf Embedded Expertise and the New Terrorism Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media 1 (4) pp.9-10