Author (Your Name)

Aimee Kidder, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Raffael M. Scheck

Second Advisor

Robert Weisbrot


The issue of terrorism has stimulated intellectual debate regarding the rights and protections that should be afforded to civilians. However, the practice of targeting noncombatants in warfare extends far beyond terrorism and has roots deep in the historical past. This study looks at violence against civilians over a series of case studies from the First and Second World Wars as well as the French-Algerian War of the 1950s and 1960s. By looking at the changing legal distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, the study first establishes a trend in international law toward increasing protection of civilians. Yet, these legal advances are not reflected in the actuality of modern warfare. Each case study shows continued, and at times more profound, violations of civilian immunity. Violence against civilians is not restricted by international law; rather, international law permits, and even sanctions, justifications that place civilians at risk of becoming tools, weapons, and targets in the war strategies of opposing forces.


terrorism, rights and protections of civilians, First World War, Second World War, French-Algerian War