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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big, bold and incisive
Burleigh is a conservative in the style of Michael Oakeshott. He believes that the best chance of a peaceful global future is to repel terrorist ideology and its exponents with greater vigour than Europe has mustered up to now. Europe contains enough human rights lawyers, race relations experts and left liberal academics to defend the rights of terrorists. What is needed...
Published on 29 Aug. 2009 by Ian Henderson

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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but Lacking
Overall, I was disappointed with book. It is a potted history of several terrorist conflicts, unsurprisingly focusing on the most recents ones within the last 40 years. It gives very little insight into common themes between conflicts, why and how they occur, what sustains them and why they end. It touches on, but doesn't really explore the link and crossover between...
Published on 28 April 2008 by Brian Hostad


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big, bold and incisive, 29 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism (Paperback)
Burleigh is a conservative in the style of Michael Oakeshott. He believes that the best chance of a peaceful global future is to repel terrorist ideology and its exponents with greater vigour than Europe has mustered up to now. Europe contains enough human rights lawyers, race relations experts and left liberal academics to defend the rights of terrorists. What is needed is a passionate counter-attack on terrorism and its defenders.
There is no mistaking Burleigh's moral outlook: terrorists are to blame for the mayhem they inflict, not governments or their security forces. The most skilled terrorists (Abu Nidal, Carlos the Jackal) quickly descend into graft and corruption, except for a few lucky veterans who have comfortable posts at American universities. Terrorists are globalised and seek access to nuclear technology. The security services need to do better.

This is a big, incisive cultural history of some of the most prominent terrorist groups in the last 150 years. Burleigh doesn't attempt any grand cause-and-effect explanation of the phenomenon. There will always be grievances and some groups will seize on the modern technology of the bomb and the bullet, kidnapping, hijacking and extortion to (in their eyes) move history on. On the other hand, he concludes that the rage of terrorism can subside. Many ideological causes which underpinned terrorism have passed into oblivion.
It is a surprisingly upbeat conclusion from a writer who does not conceal his own outrage at the indiscriminate mayhem perpetrated by terrorists in the name of Liberty, world revolution, utopia and "true" Islam. But Burleigh is not a fan of Washington's neo-cons and George Bush's "War on Terror" either. He is more convinced of the effectiveness of smarter psychological tactics to "turn" the radicals, as in Saudi Arabia's programmeto wean low-level jihadists off violence, using similar methods to those used to retrieve victims of sinister cults. The "war on terror" takes time. The Cold War lasted from 1947 to 1989. "On that calendar, we are on the equivalent of 1953 in the struggle with the jihad-salafis".

But the West is still its own worst enemy. Terrorists organised freely in "Londonistan" and in England's northern cities, protected by "community leaders" and left-liberal "multiculturism". European universities in the 1970s, treasuring free speech, allowed the Red Brigades and Baader Meinhof to recruit and spread the "revolutionary" message of Euro-neo-Marxism. The security services in Britain were slow to switch from penetrating the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries to learning Arabic and Urdu as a preliminary to paying visits to the mosques of Bradford and Birmingham.
Burleigh approaches terrorism as an anthropologist would investigate an exotic tribe, a tribe with its own oral history, spiritual values and rituals. This certainly works for the anarchists and nihilists in the 19th century, and the jihadis of the 21st. A form of political religion offers them a utopian vision and justifies atrocities which are in fact forbidden by all monotheistic religions. But it is less plausible when applied to the South African ANC in its campaign of sabotage in the 1980s. The ANC leadership and the South African Communist Party were certainly willing to kill civilians as well as the security forces in their anti-apartheid campaign, but it was clearly a tactic in their campaign to seize power, and it went parallel with covert negotiations with the regime.
There is a strong chapter in this book on Islamic terrorism. Tracing its modern twentieth century version back to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who seized leadership of the Muslim world from the nationalist dictators and generals after 1970, Burleigh shows how Khomeini created a strong ideological cocktail, mixing Islamic purity with popular anti-Americanism. This was exported to the Middle East through Hezbollah, and it enabled Muslims to unite around the Arab-Israeli dispute. But beyond removing Israel from the map, the ultimate aim, increasingly trumpeted by Al-Qaida, was a new Muslim caliphate, achieved by asymmetric warfare - the heroes would not be Arab armies, but hijackers and suicide bombers.

This is a passionate and thrustful work of intense scholarship. It is short of broad analytical themes Committed left-liberal readers of the New York Times and The Guardian will certainly not give it five stars for inclusiveness. They will wish to raise a debate about "state terror" and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they will probably prefer to read books with a more nuanced attitude to terrorists. Perhaps the sanest of these is Robert Fisk's account of the Middle East conflict The Great War for Civilisation (Harper, 2006). Burleigh is at his best in Earthly Powers (Harper,2005) and Sacred Causes (Harper, 2006). These two earlier works are a matchless portrayal of terrorism, religion and politics from Robespierre to Bin Laden.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history of violence?, 14 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism (Paperback)
Michael Burleigh is a well-known right-wing thinker. In fact, when I received this book through the post I was perturbed to find a glowing commendation on the cover from David Cameron no less - then merely an MP. As a liberal-leaning type myself I do not naturally gravitate towards such sorts. However I do like to challenge my own political assumptions and so I got stuck in to Burleigh's 500 page history with relish.

This is a history, not a polemic, but Burleigh does not shy away from sharing his exasperated assessment of individual and institutional shortcomings in combating terrorism. He is such a fiercely intelligent man that one feels quite swept along with his well-argued indignation. He has scant patience with the British government's intransigence and sloth in dealing with dangerous radicals due to anxieties about being accused of racism. He presents evidence to suggest that the country is considered a `soft touch' by the international Jihadi-Salafist terrorist community, not just permitting their members entry at its borders but granting asylum on request, providing free housing, generous welfare payments, and being largely ineffectual in preventing the dissemination of dangerous ideologies, the recruitment of British candidates for Jihad and even the planning and coordination of terrorist acts overseas. France and the US are his models for more effective intervention.

Burleigh's book charts the chronology of terrorism from its pre-war incipience through to the Russian Nihilists, the Algerian FLN, the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off, the Basque separatists, the rabid Irish Republicans and Loyalists, and the bizarre, fashion-conscious and ultra-hip Baader-Meinhof group from the 70s. It terminates with discussion of the modern Islamist problem, the book presumably having been inspired by the world trade centre attacks.

He gives relatively short shrift to apologist's excuses that hegemonic entities (such as The West) ensure terrorism proliferates through ill-guided and arrogant foreign policy and instead seems to suggest that what we are really taking about here when we talk of causes of international terrorism is just plain jealousy, resentment and anxieties borne of apparent cultural and economic inferiority. This will raise a few hackles if you are a liberal. The truth is usually found somewhere between the extremes in my opinion.

He is also keen to point out that almost always the terrorist networks discussed are implicated in organised crime including extortion, smuggling, bank robberies and even drugs. Ostensibly these rackets are a means of funding the `struggle' but at times it becomes clear that the `struggle' is just a convenient excuse for indulging in self-serving acquisitive criminality. Yes, there are political and religious drivers mobilising many terrorist recruits but it is no surprise to find that a significant contingent are motivated more by the testosterone and egotism typical of the angry-young-man just looking for trouble. One imagines that their analogues might be just as likely found battling on the football terraces on a Saturday afternoon as volunteering to fight NATO troops in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The prose of Blood and Rage itself is highly engaging, pacey and insightful, if occasionally a bit too opinionated. Burleigh is an erudite man and sometimes his propensity to interlink several points within a single sentence can be confusing, especially as he frequently makes quite subtle inferences which can leave one baffled unless one has his cultural and educational background. He assumes too much of the reader at times. I frequently found myself reaching for a dictionary too, which is no bad thing, but be warned if this would annoy you. Examples of some of Burleigh's words one doesn't encounter everyday: oecumenic, nilotic, fissiparous, senescence, rebarbative, jacquerie and so on.

I read this book to-ing and fro-ing from work on a crowded commuter train and I found myself greatly looking forward to these trips as opportunities to reconnect with Mr Burleigh's thoughts. I look forward to reading more of Burleigh and that I guess constitutes the summation of my review.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sardonic and exceptional, 28 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism (Paperback)
A first-class book about the history of terrorism. Sardonic and exceptionally well-written, it pans across countries, cultures, high politics and the torture methods of psychopaths. The author's scorn for those that Lenin called 'useful idiots', his cold contempt for terrorists and the casuistry they employ to rationalise their fiendish work might lead some to think that the book is a little less than objective. Depends on one's point of view, perhaps. In any case, their rationale is deftly evicerated.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE ACTS THEMSELVES, 17 April 2009
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Burleigh doesnt go sniffing around for "root causes" which is why he tends to upset the liberal left so much. This is a book filled with the acts and the consequences of terror. If you are looking for an analysis of why and how alot of these conflicts occured then I accept that this isnt the best place to look, but if you want to know how terrorism has manifested itself over the years this is a good book. Sometimes a little too erudite but overall a good supplement to his other works.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but Lacking, 28 April 2008
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Brian Hostad (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Overall, I was disappointed with book. It is a potted history of several terrorist conflicts, unsurprisingly focusing on the most recents ones within the last 40 years. It gives very little insight into common themes between conflicts, why and how they occur, what sustains them and why they end. It touches on, but doesn't really explore the link and crossover between terrorism and criminality.

The only theme that comes through consistently is Burleigh's total contempt for terrorists and their idealology. This is done through acid one liners which show the moral bankcruptcy and double standards of the terrorist whenever they try and justify their actions. This is fine (though this does get tedious towrds the end) and I can't disagree with him, but it doesn't explain why terrorists will maintain community support (however passive) for their actions and so that they campaign for decades with a constant stream of recruits and funds.

Where Burleigh gets himself worked up into a ferment of rage and loathing is the last section on Islamic terrorism. In some ways it's one the better sections as it's more than just a quick run through of characters and terrorist atrocities (perhaps because the number of incidents has been smaller, although each has been on a much larger scale). Here for Burleigh the liberal lawmaking elite of the Western democracies (shameful left leaning lawyers, worthless asylum laws and benefit handouts for all, are consisted derided) and the poorly co-ordinated security services are almost as much to blame as radical islamic clerics. I feel that Burleigh really just wanted to write about this subject, but for whatever reason thought to expand it to a more general work on terrorism. One final gripe, tying into this, is his constant references to "Londonistan" all through the book. It's as though the final section was on his mind all the time he was writing.

To be fair though it is a good read that keeps up a decent pace, and can serve as good introduction to the terrorist conflicts it covers. For me, I found the part on the Red Brigades and the RAF particularly interesting having little knowledge about these conflicts prior to reading the book.

Overall, you won't be bored reading the book, and it might even get you thinking a little, but if you're expecting deep insight and analysis, you're best looking elsewhere.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 8 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism (Paperback)
Michael Burleigh wrote a well-received history of the Third Reich some years ago, so I thought that this would be a well-researched, balanced and useful book.

I was much mistaken.

There are a number of errors made on things I do know about, like the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This undermines my faith when Burleigh's talking about things about which I know nothing. For example, the old canard about the 'IRA = I Ran Away' graffiti's repeated. As Brian Hanley's shown in History Ireland, there's a single, unreliable source for this, who claimed to have seen graffiti of which there are no photographs. Again, Burleigh claims that the Red Army Faction had 'extensive' contacts with the IRA. These appear to be contacts known solely to himself. And there's the rather bizarre claim that IRA prisoners could exert such dominance over a prison that many prison officers committed suicide. No source for this, interesting though it'd be to follow up.

There's also some dishonesty involved. When he says that Sinn Fein got 65% of the vote in the 'southern' 26 counties of Ireland and 48% throughout the island as a whole in the general election of 1918, it's easy to forget that Sinn Fein won 73 of 105 seats and that some seats were uncontested, so presumably had no vote.

Again, when talking about the anarchists he declares that there was an anarchist 'Black International' in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because there was an anarchist conference of five people in 1881, which did not 'reconvene' until 1907. Which would suggest to me that there was not in fact an anarchist international plotting murder and assassination.

The mixture of error, dishonesty and perverse interpretation of evidence leads me to give the book a poor score.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrorist is a criminal with a false cause and a distorted sense of their own worth, 3 Oct. 2009
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Dr. Peter Davies (Halifax, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book. It was all the better for not making theories, or grand strategies, bit for its straightforward description of people and events. It shows that the people involved in terrorism are dangerous, usually on a basis of criminality or inadequacy. Giving a criminal a "noble cause" or a "lifelong fight" gives him or her a plausible (but utterly false) reason for acts that are utterly despicable on the basis that they can do no good, make no relationships, and can only cause harm, destruction and alienation.

Historical or current grudges are a fertile soil for terrorism, but not a justification for it- because the means invalidates any end it might claim to want to achieve. That terrorism can only cause harm is one of the main messages of this book. Terrorists need to personify their enemies as different, undesirable and other from them. The truth is we are all human, and we all bleed like each other. Burleigh's point that all terrorist victims are people merely wanting to go about their daily business and relate well to other people is well made.

The ability of states to contort their best values (freedom of speech, liberty of assembly, tolerance for others of different backgrounds or opinions) to accommodate terrorists is well described. The role of some lawyers in achieving this is well described. Law, and the uses to which it is used, and to which it is not enforced tell us a lot about the values in our societies. In the UK our libel laws, "Londonistan", and our reluctance to deport certain people are our contributions to enabling terrorism.

This book is powerful, and useful reading. We are all potentially terrorist targets, as we are all "decadent" in some way or other. This book should encourage us that terrorism is a problem that is ultimately sortable, and exposes well the emptiness of purported justifications of it.

I can recommend it to others.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent informative read packed with insights into the development and ..., 17 Sept. 2014
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Excellent informative read packed with insights into the development and continuing evolution of terrorism. Only reservation was the need to constantly consult a dictionary, butthat reflects my limited learning not the author's.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a brave and fearless analysis, 17 Mar. 2008
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DT (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
I enjoyed, and felt educated by, this book. Unlike the previous reviewer I had not read any of the author's other work, and so remain uncontaminated by earlier facts and their possible recycling (unavoidable, perhaps, in a subject of this nature).
As a lawyer (albeit one who has never been instructed in a terrorist case) I found the comments about the legal profession somewhat tendentious and not a little odd. However I would not put anyone off reading this substantial and serious book for the many valuable insights it has provided.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 27 Nov. 2014
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The author captures and represents a diverse range of ideas and concepts and conveys them with style and passion.
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Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism
Blood and Rage: A Cultural history of Terrorism by Michael Burleigh (Paperback - 2 April 2009)
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