Nonviolent action has been primarily a means of protest or of popular resistance to unjust and repressive regimes. However, there have also been proposals to adopt unarmed resistance to a military occupation – plans to undermine occupying forces might themselves deter aggression. Proposals for nonviolent or ‘civilian’ defence go back to the 1920s and 1930s, but it became a subject for more thorough academic and political debate from the 1950s in the light of the new strategic situation posed by nuclear weapons. Commander Sir Stephen King Hall proposed a nonviolent defence policy for Britain in his book Defence in the Nuclear Age, London, Gollancz, 1958. Later studies drew on earlier historical campaigns, in particular the movement for Indian independence, but also on examples of resistance to Nazism (especially in occupied Norway and Denmark). Academic analyses of the potential for nonviolent forms of defence were commissioned by the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish governments, and it was discussed by post-Soviet Baltic governments (which had achieved independence through unarmed resistance). Radical pacifists have also debated this approach using the concept of ‘social defence’.
This section includes books covering unarmed resistance to Nazi policies in German-occupied Europe in World War Two, because of its importance in debates about nonviolent defence. For a more detailed list of sources published before 1970 see , Nonviolent Action: A Selected Bibliography London, Housmans, , 1970 .