This article explores how insurgencies emerge and spread within a country over time through an analysis of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. It argues that important processes underpinning the spread of insurgency are likely to change with shifts in the relative military capacity of belligerents. Importantly, insurgents can to a greater extent spread the insurgency by using coercion, material incentives, and movement of forces when they are militarily strong than when they are weak. This in turn leads to changes in the local conditions favorable to insurgency. I hypothesize that inaccessible terrains, preexisting rebel networks, and proximity to insurgent areas are likely to be important determinants of local insurgency onset during rebel weakness, but should decline in importance as the rebels gain strength. I find support for these arguments in a mixed-methods analysis of Nepal’s insurgency that combines a qualitative narrative and a quantitative event history analysis.
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