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Terrorism and responses to terrorism have repeatedly had a profound influence in shaping human experience. The mutually shaping intimacy of non-state and state violence, together with the often agonising legacies emerging from that terrorising relationship, continue to determine the contours of many people’s experience (in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Spain, the UK, Colombia and across so much of the polarised world). Given this importance within the human past, what can we say about history and the study of terrorism? In introducing the present volume, this chapter asks five central questions. First, what has been the relative contribution of historians to the existing study of terrorism? Second, what are the distinctive insights potentially brought by historians to our understanding of the subject? Third, what are the particular challenges for historians as they engage with the study of terrorism? Fourth, what are the opportunities for historians in studying this phenomenon? Fifth, given these aspects of the relationship between history and terrorism (the contribution to date, the distinctive insights, the challenges, the opportunities), what will this book decisively and originally offer?
This book has involved scholars thinking historically about terrorism. In relation to the four main areas of understanding in the field – definition, causation, consequences and appropriate response - what can we therefore say that we know, and what should we prioritise next in our research? This chapter will identify some of what the contributors themselves have valuably argued, and it will consequently have a historical dimension. But it will also relate such ideas to wider understandings, findings and agendas, recognising that the study of terrorism is and should be collaborative between disciplines.
It seems unarguable that religious belief and practice have contributed on occasions in the past to the generation and sustenance of terrorism. Moreover, the contemporary persistence of religious commitment suggests that such long-rooted processes may have life in them yet. In relation to terrorism as to much else, those who espouse a religious faith probably deserve more serious-minded, respectful attention than scholars sometimes afford them. Certainly, in settings where religious values and beliefs have undeniably contributed in complex ways to the dynamics of terroristic violence (such as Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine), the assumption of an evaporative quality to religion and its effects would seem profoundly ill judged. And if terrorism is potentially most revealing in regard to the world-historical forces with which it intersects, then examination of the multilayered relationships between terrorism, history and religion represents a major challenge. Accordingly, this chapter suggests that the precise nature of the important and complex relationships between terrorism and religion might helpfully be examined through addressing the following four historically minded questions. First, should religious belief and practice be seen more as causes of terroristic violence, or as restraining influences upon it? Second, has religious terrorism represented an existential threat, or more of a horrific nuisance? Third, is religious terrorism a novel phenomenon, or a recognisably familiar one? Fourth, is religion a detachable part, or an organically inextricable feature, of the beliefs which can lead to terrorist activity?
The Cambridge History of Terrorism provides a comprehensive reference work on terrorism from a distinctly historical perspective, offering systematic analyses of key themes, problems and case studies from terrorism's long past. Featuring expert scholars from across the globe, this volume examines the phenomenon of terrorism through regional case studies, largely written by local scholars, as well as through thematic essays exploring the relationship between terrorism and other historical forces. Each of the chapters - whether thematic or case-study focused - embodies new, research-based analysis which will help to inform and reshape our understanding of one of the world's most challenging problems.