Gene Sharp died peacefully in his home in Boston on 28 January. He was a pioneer in the study of nonviolent action, and applied his ideas to national defense as well as to nonviolent insurrections against autocracy.

In the late 1950s he worked in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oslo on a study of Gandhi, with Arne Næss and Johan Galtung and published a widely circulated pamphlet, Tyranny Could Not Quell Them! about the Norwegian teachers’ resistance to the nazification of Norwegian schools during the German occupation in World War II. His most recent visit to Oslo occurred in 2012, when he spoke at the screening of a film about his work, ‘How to Start a Revolution’.

For many years the impact of his work was mostly limited to other academics and the pacifist wing of the peace movement. But in recent years, his work was closely read and widely used by nonviolent activists in a number of places and made him a household name in several countries. Activists in the peaceful regime change in Belgrade and in the Arab Spring, in particular, were influenced by his writings.

These events, as well as Gene Sharp’s work, also helped to rekindle the old fascination with nonviolence in peace research, as evidenced e.g. by a major research project at PRIO and a special issue of Journal of Peace Research in 2013. An obituary by Jørgen Johansen can be found on the PRIO Blog. More detailed expositions of his work can also be found here and here.

Nils Petter Gleditsch