Democracy ... Anger ... and Elite Responses

Are we in DANGER?

Does political violence trigger democratic breakdown? What can political elites do to confront radical, anti-democratic forces? Do encompassing pro-democratic coalitions successfully defeat violent enemies of democracy? These questions are at the core of the “Democracy, Anger, and Elite Responses” (DANGER) project. Funded by the European Research Council, the project will answer these questions by studying the challenges to democracy in Europe’s interwar period (1919-1939). The project team uses on computational methods to collect information from historical sources on political violence and elite strategies to counter threats to democracy. Building on these data, the project team develops quantitative models to assess the risk of democratic breakdown faced by contemporary democracies.

The Team.

Nils-Christian Bormann is a political scientist at Witten/Herdecke University and the principal investigator (PI) of the DANGER project. He coordinates project activities and is the lead researcher. His regional expertise within the project focuses on Scandinavia and the Baltics during the interwar period. His broader research interests include the sources of political instability, group-based inequalities, and conflict resolution.

Lea Kaftan is the DANGER project’s post-doctoral researcher at Witten/Herdecke University. She coordinates and collects data on parties, governments and political violence in interwar Europe. Her regional focus is on the Benelux countries, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. She furthermore studies democratic backsliding and party politics.

Bruno Della Sala is a PhD student at Witten/Herdecke University and researcher in the DANGER project. His regional expertise within the project focuses on South-Western Europe during the interwar period. His broader research interests include international relations, causes of conflict, and autocratization.

Stefan Stojkovic is a political scientist at Witten/Herdecke University and doctoral researcher in the DANGER project. His regional expertise within the project focuses on Central and South-Eastern Europe during the interwar period. His broader research interests include democratic backsliding, political behavior and sub-national democracy.


Here we regularly report on our research progress, scientific events we attend, and current threats to democracy in Europe.

DANGER team in Münster

Lea Kaftan and Stefan Stojkovic presented updates on their research based on DANGER data at the PEDD Conference in Münster in late February. Stefan Stojkovic

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Blackshirts marching on Rome

The March on Rome

One hundred years ago on October 28th, Benito Mussolini began the “March on Rome.” The event initiated the breakdown of Italian democracy. Thousands of Mussolini’s

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Invite to Switzerland

Lea Kaftan presented the project’s first insights into political polarization among interwar European parties at a retreat organized by Sven-Oliver Proksch (University of Cologne) and

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DANGER members at APSA

Dr. Lea Kaftan and Stefan Stojkovic presented ongoing work from the DANGER project at different venues of the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science

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apsa Amarican Political Science Association

PhD project

Stefan Stojkovic, PhD reseaercher in the DANGER project, was awarded a full-travel scholarship to attend a workshop on sub-national elections in Montreal, Canada. The workshop

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Geopolitical Data of Danger Activity.

The project collects two main datasets

Democratic Survival in the Interwar Period.

The “Actions by Elites and Leaders” (ABEL) dataset contains information on government and opposition parties and any actions these governments take to protect or weaken other democratic institutions. Such actions include party bans, power grabs, and restrictions on political competition. The data help us understand how democracies deconsolidate through elite actions, and what elites can do to save democracy: either by banning radical parties or by forming coalitions to protect democracy. We anticipate to release the data in the first half of 2023.

The “Citizen Anger Interwar News” (CAIN) database provides information on the location, time, type, target, and perpetrator of politically violent events in Europe’s interwar democracies. The database includes information on politically motivated violence between the state and non-state actors, for example, clashes between police forces and radical challengers of democracy, violence between non-state actors, for example street fights between communist and fascist militias, and violence against civilians, such as political assassinations. Built around news and archival sources, the database will provide the first systematic mapping of political violence in Europe’s interwar period. It will enable us to study the relationship between political violence and democratic breakdown or survival at great spatial and temporal resolution. We anticipate a release of the data in the first half of 2025.

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