Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Terrorism and History

Richard English

How can the study of history help us to understand and respond to terrorism?

In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks on the USA, there has been an explosion of research on terrorist violence.

But historians have been less prominent within that field than scholars from numerous other disciplines.

So The Cambridge History of Terrorism brings together historians and other historically-minded experts to offer highly original essays about terrorism. The book covers a vast range of major questions and arguments, read through historical lenses.

There are compelling case studies of Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Colombia, Iraq, Peru, Ireland, African history, the USA, the Netherlands, the Basque Country.

There are essays on vital issues such as historical periodization, the definition of terrorism, the history of counter-terrorism, the role of the state, and the relationships over long pasts between terrorism and gender, and terrorism and religion.

Throughout, the expert authors bring to this important subject a series of historically-minded perspectives, and attitudes of analysis that are all too often missing from existing debate on terrorist violence.

So the approaches are long-term rather than short-term in their explanations of change and continuity. Contributors to The Cambridge History of Terrorism engage with lengthy pasts rather than exemplifying the historical amnesia which so often afflicts discussion of the subject.

The book respects the complex particularity, and ultimately the uniqueness, of context. It is terrorisms rather than terrorism that we must explain, and the decisive importance of local historical action and setting repeatedly emerges from the book.

There is a rich engagement throughout the volume with extensive first-hand source materials, an interrogation still missing all too often from many other analyses of terrorism and terrorists.

And there is repeated attention to contingency rather than inevitability in the evolution and contemporary development of terrorism globally.

There is no doubt that terrorism and reactions to it have done much to shape human experience. In understanding those processes, the study of history offers one vital resource.

Put another way, understanding contemporary politics and society requires an historical reading of the role that has been played by terrorism. This book is intended to make a major contribution to that vital understanding.

The Cambridge History of Terrorism Edited by Richard English
The Cambridge History of Terrorism Edited by Richard English

About The Author

Richard English

Richard English is Professor of Politics at Queen's University Belfast. His books include Does Terrorism Work? A History (2016), and the award-winning studies Armed Struggle: The...

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