Domestic Terrorism: Definition, History, Types & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:29 History
  • 1:32 Threats & Types
  • 2:13 Examples
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marcia Neely

Marcia Neely is a teacher who holds both a MS degree in Reading & Literacy and a Ed Specialist degree in Curriculum & Instruction.

Just about every region of the United States has been hit by some form of domestic terrorism in the past several decades, but what exactly is domestic terrorism? In this lesson, we'll explore the history and types of domestic terrorism and see some examples.


Domestic terrorism commonly involves acts of violence or intimidation by citizens or permanent residents of a nation against the general public or property within that nation with the intention of instilling fear in order to further political, social, or ideological objectives. This lesson takes you through the history of domestic terrorism and the different types of domestic terrorism in the United States, in addition to discussing some examples of this tragic phenomenon.


Terrorism's long and fascinating history is integral to the modern history of countless nations and states. Terrorism in the United States has numerous origins. In fact, domestic terrorism has existed and influenced the political and social development of the United States, to varying degrees, since this country's establishment. Anti-government members of society have often used violence to promote a variety of causes, many of which have been seen as justly revolutionary. Some historic examples in the U.S. include some of the aims of the first Continental Congress, the creation and fighting of the Continental Army of the American Revolution, and some of the territory and state militia during the Civil War. These examples count because they were against the governmental authority in place at the time, as well as against many members of the general public at the time. That is, many of the colonists who stayed loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War saw their rebellious neighbors as domestic terrorists. However, what exactly constitutes an incident of domestic terrorism today, and what types of groups or individuals plan to carry out violent campaigns?

Threats & Types

Perpetrators of modern domestic terror threats can range from radical separatist or hate groups and eco-terrorists, to animal rights extremists and lone terrorists. Regardless of the agenda, many of these groups are highly destructive and prone to violence.

In the United States, specifically, there are four basic categories of domestic terrorists, which are based on what inspires their acts of violence and/or intimidation. Generally, the groups in these four categories can be broadly regarded as being either inspired by:

  1. Extreme religious beliefs or objectives
  2. Racial bigotry and/or supremacist beliefs and objectives
  3. Anti-government or anti-establishment beliefs and objectives
  4. Their own personal beliefs and objectives

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