Terrorism in France

It has been a long time since I posted on this site.  Looking at the date of the last post – 20 September 2016 – the reason for the lack of posts is probably … my job!  That last post came just before teaching began for the 2016/17 year.  Now that teaching is winding down for another year (at least in terms of time spent in the classroom), I decided it was time to post again.

I haven’t spent all my time since September weighed down by teaching.  I have embarked on a new researhc project – at last.  I write ‘at last’ because I struggled for a while looking for a focus.  After the PhD and the post-doc, this was the first time that I was confronted with the question, ‘what next?’  And I settled on… terrorism.

A bomb damaged building on the Rue de Presbourg, Paris, September 1937.  Right-wing extremists, the Cagoulards, were responsible.

My decision to focus on terrorism in France (since roughly the 1880s) did not come completely out of the blue.  My interests began to develop a couple of years ago at Swansea University when I decided to offer some MA and undergraduate classes on the subject.  I was therefore quite familiar with the general historiography.  My work on political violence in interwar France seemed to lead me to the topic quite naturally, too.

At the moment, I’m interested in how societies construct the term, that is, what we understand to be terrorism, what it represents, what it means, and what exactly we think makes a terrorist.  What intrigues me is that, in the literature on the subject, ‘terrorism’ is one of those terms for which there is no universally accepted defintion yet we all seem to recognise it when we see it.  It seems to be a phenomenon that defines our own age – the ‘age of terrorism’, as a recent scholarly discussion on the subject put it.  But it doesn’t take too much digging in the sources to discover that at one point or another people in the past believed they were living in their own ‘age of terrorism’.  How did they define it?  When did their ‘age’ end and ours begin?  Or have we lived in the same age of terrorism since the anarchists attacks of the 1880s?  Just a few questions that I’m thinking over.


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