Covert social movement networks and the secrecy-efficiency trade off: The case of the UK suffragettes (1906-1914)

Nick Crossley, Gemma Edwards, Ellen Harries, Rachel Stevenson

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Abstract

This paper formulates and empirically tests a number of hypotheses regarding the impact of covertness upon network structure. Specifically, hypotheses are deduced from theoretical arguments regarding a 'secrecy-efficiency trade off' which is said to shape covert networks. The paper draws upon data concerning the UK suffragettes. It is taken from a publicly archived UK Home Office document listing 1992 court appearances (for suffrage related activities), involving 1214 individuals and 394 court sessions, between 1906 and 1914. Network structure at earlier phases of suffragette activism, when the movement was less covert, is compared with that during the final phase, when it was more covert and meets the definitional criteria of what we call a 'covert social movement network' (CSMN). Support for the various hypotheses tested is variable but the key claims derived from the idea of the secrecy-efficiency trade off are supported. Specifically, the suffragettes' network becomes less dense and less degree centralised as it becomes more covert. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-644
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Networks
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

Keywords

  • Covert networks
  • Secrecy-efficiency trade off
  • Social movements
  • Suffragettes

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