European Social Protest, 1000–2000

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


There is no doubt that without uprisings, social movements and everyday forms of collective resistance, today’s Europe would look quite different. In no small measure, guild battles, peasant wars and revolutions have helped shape our present. Despite this, historians have for many years shown little interest, or no interest at all, in the protests of the lower classes. Instead, ‘riots’ were seen as highly emotionally charged eruptions of confused masses, layers that historical research was unable to analyse. Only in the course of the twentieth century, and particularly since the 1960s, has this changed somewhat. Frequently, because historians had now often taken part in protests and social movements themselves, they could concretely see how forms of resistance could develop and what conditions gave them a chance of success. A new perspective was thus formed, outlined internationally in the concepts of opportunity structure, resources and framing. Opportunity structure describes the framework within which protests are articulated (the level of state repression, the independence of the mass media, etc.). The concept of resources emphasizes that protesters need means to mobilize people, such as, for example, social relationships, forms of wider communication, places where they can meet and persuasive speakers. Framing highlights how protesters articulate their resistance through particular meaning and belief systems, which they themselves often remodify. Taken together, these three concepts make clear that protests always develop in particular political contexts independent of them; that they need a more or less explicit legitimating ideology, and that they need social and material resources for the protest to be effectively articulated. It goes without saying that all three elements undergo constant change. Repression, mass media, belief systems and the required resources vary from region to region and from period to period.


Social Movement Trade Union Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century Social Revolution 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Institute of Social HistoryAmsterdamNetherlands

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