Having written with depth and brilliance about the Third Reich and the influence of religion on politics and power, Michael Burleigh is the ideal man to look at the history of modern terror. It is a story that takes us from the Fenian brotherhood in the 1860s to the jihadists of the present day, and terrorism’s ability to bring us grief is apparent on every page of this comprehensive, wide-ranging and superbly written book. Terrorists seem to operate mainly, but not exclusively, in civilised and democratic societies. They seek to obtain by terror what they cannot have through democratic means. We have seen this at close hand in our own lifetimes, first with the IRA, then with the Islamic extremists.
Burleigh reminds us that almost every advanced European country has fallen prey to terrorists within living memory. Here a powerful theme recurs: the credulousness of those who, if not sanctioning terror, nonetheless find something appealing in it. One of the most vivid and compelling sections of the book comes when