"Fear of failure or criticism has never inhibited me from starting off in a new direction," says Dr. Ted Robert Gurr, reflecting on a prolific career of ground-breaking research on civil conflict and political violence. Among his many achievements, Gurr has written the award-winning books Why Men Rebel (Princeton, 1970), and, with historian Hugh Davis Graham, Violence In America (Bantam Books, and Praeger, 1969; Sage Publications, 1979). He taught at Princeton and Northwestern Universities, and the University of Colorado before joining the Maryland faculty in 1989. He was awarded a Distinguished University Professorship by the University of Maryland in 1995. Gurr's philosophy also underlies the Minorities at Risk project, which he conceived in 1985 at a time when ethnic conflict was not a major scholarly or policy concern. The project's results have been reported in three books and numerous articles and chapters, most recently in Peoples Versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2000).
As Professor Emeritus in the Department of Government and Politics, Gurr is internationally-recognized for his theoretical, comparative, and historical studies of societal conflict. His career has been shaped by several formative experiences, not the least of which was "the eruption of widespread violent protest by urban African-Americans in 1965 and the demands of...the American public for explanations and for ideas about what should be done." This led Gurr to a number of positions advising policymakers, first as a staff member of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence established by President Johnson in 1968, and a 1994-2000 appointment as Senior Consultant to the State Failure Task Force, a White House-sponsored empirical study of the precursors of internal wars and regime breakdowns since 1955.
Similarly broad in scope is another one of Gurr's projects: the Polity project, which he began in the late 1960s to provide coded information on political institutions for all independent states from 1800 to the present. Since 1998 it has been updated under the direction of Monty G. Marshall of George Mason University in collaboration with Keith Jaggers of the University of Colorado. The Polity data, available on the CIDCM website, provide the basis for many scholarly and policy studies of the impact of democracy and autocracy on civil and international conflict.
Since the mid-1980s, Dr. Gurr has worked collaboratively with Barbara Harff, in systemmatic efforts to identify ethnic groups that are at risk of victimization. Their work in this area includes Early Warning of Communal Conflict and Genocide: Linking Empirical Research and International Responses (United Nations University Press, 1996) and chapters in Preventive Measures: Building Risk Assessment and Crisis Early Warning Systems, coedited by Gurr and John L. Davies (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). Even though "academic research cannot create the will or means to act," Harff and Gurr hope that early warnings will contribute to the kinds of domestic and international policies needed to minimize the risks of humanitarian disasters.
At Maryland, Gurr has taught theories and comparative analysis of violent ethno-political conflict at the graduate and undergraduate level. He has directed or co-directed the dissertations of nearly 40 doctoral students during his career at Princeton, Northwestern, the University of Colorado, and the University of Maryland.
Gurr's work in conflict analysis has included conflict forecasting tests using econometric models, evaluation of conflict outcomes, theoretical work on state coercion and violence, and the analysis of oppositional terrorism. His current research focuses on the roles of ethnic and national peoples in conflict, emphasizing conflict management strategies - the latter summarized in a 2000 Foreign Affairs article, "Ethnic Warfare on the Wane." This research also provides the basis for case studies and analyses for Ethnic Conflict in World Politics, coauthored with Barbara Harff (Westview Press, 1994).
International recognition of Gurr's work includes visiting fellowships at the University of Uppsala, Sweden (the Olaf Palme Visiting Professor) and at the Interdisciplinary Program of Research on Root Causes of Human Rights Violations (PIOOM) of the University of Leiden, Netherlands. In 1994-95 he served as president of the International Studies Association. He is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including a 1988-89 appointment as a Peace Fellow of the U.S. Institute of Peace. In October 2002 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria.