Terrorism, Risk and the City

 Description and Timescale: This research conducted between 1995 and 2000 pre-dated the events of 9/11 and provides a series of ‘lessons’ for policy makers who were forced to react in haste to the challenges of countering the threat of urban terrorism in the post-9/11 period. This work was submitted for a Doctorate in Urban Geography at Oxford Brookes University entitled  Risk, insurance and the making of the contemporary urban landscape – with specific reference to the threat of terrorism in the City of London 1992-1997

Project Summary: Within urban geography the development of defensive strategies encompassing the fortification and privatisation of the city has attracted significant attention during the 1990s and 2000s. This research was articulated in the light of these recent debates concerning risk, security, and the spatial restructuring of contemporary Western cities. In this context, the concern of this work examined how the perceived risk of terrorist attack led to changes in the physical form and institutional infrastructure of the City of London between 1992 and 1997 during which the City was a prime terrorist target. To undertake this enquiry an urban landscape approach was adopted which took account of the three interrelated components of landscape – namely form (the arrangement of the built environment) which is constructed and activated through a number of social, economic, and political processes that gives the built environment cultural and symbolic meaning.

Methodologically this research was based on a series of interviews with the police, security experts, insurers, risk managers, terrorism analysts, and other business organisations, as well as being supplemented by an array of documentary and archival material. Such an approach provided the framework to interpret the key processes and institutional decisions involved in the evolution of enhanced City security. This work explored the formal and informal strategies adopted by a number of key urban managers as they attempted to reduce both the physical and financial risk of terrorism through a series of place-specific security initiatives and insurance policies. It was shown that the terrorist threat led to increased fortification, a substantial rise in terrorism insurance premiums and changing institutional relations at a variety of spatial scales. It also argued that these changes were necessary to protect this area from further attack and to preserve the City’s reputation as a global financial centre as well as London’s position as a so-called world city.

Key Outputs:

  • Coaffee, J. (2009) Terrorism, Risk and the Global City – towards urban resilience, Ashgate, Farnham.
  • Coaffee, J. (2006) ‘New security challenges and urban resilience – planning out terrorism and risk in central London (Stedelijke veiligheid en veerkracht), AGORA – Tijdschrift Voor social-Ruimtelijke Vraagstukken (Dutch Social Science Journal), 22 (1), 16-19
  • Coaffee, J. and Rogers, P. (2008)  Reputational risk and resiliency: The branding of security in place-making, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 4 (3) 205-17
  • Coaffee, J. and Van Ham, P. (2008) ‘Security branding’: The role of security in marketing the city, region and state (Guest Editorial) Place Branding and public Diplomacy, 4 (3) 191-94,
  • Coaffee, J. (2005) Urban renaissance in the age of terrorism – revanchism, social control or the end of reflection? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 29 (2) 447-54
  • Coaffee, J. (2004) Rings of steel, rings of concrete and rings of confidence: designing out terrorism in central London pre and post 9/11, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 28.1, 201-11.
  • Coaffee, J. (2004) Recasting the ‘ring of steel’:  Designing out terrorism in the City of London, in Graham, S. and Marvin, S. ‘Cities, War and Terrorism’, Blackwell, Oxford, p.276-96.
  • Coaffee, J. (2004) Transforming the counter-terrorism response, in Clarke, D.  (ed), Technology and Terrorism, Transaction, New Brunswick/London, p.193-216.
  • Coaffee, J. (2003) Terrorism, Risk and the City, Ashgate, Aldershot.
  • Coaffee, J. (2003) Morphing the counter-terrorist response – Beating the bombers in London’s financial heart, Knowledge, Technology and Power (US Journal), Vol.16 (2), 63-83.
  • Coaffee, J. (2000) Fortification, fragmentation and the threat of terrorism in the City of London, in Gold, J.R and Revill, G.E, (eds) Landscapes of Defence, Addison Wesley Longman London, p.114-129.

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