Cover of The Invention of Terrorism in France, 1904-1939 by Chris Millington
The Invention of Terrorism in France, 1904-1939
Chris Millington


September 2023
304 pages.
from $35.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503636521
Paperback ISBN: 9781503636750
Ebook ISBN: 9781503636767

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The Invention of Terrorism in France, 1904-1939 investigates the political and social imaginaries of "terrorism" in the early twentieth century. Chris Millington traces the development of how the French conceived of terrorism, from the late nineteenth-century notion that terrorism was the deed of the mad anarchist bomber, to the fraught political clashes of the 1930s when terrorism came to be understood as a political act perpetrated against French interests by organized international movements. Through a close analysis of a series of terrorist incidents and representations thereof in public discourse and the press, the book argues that contemporary ideas of terrorism in France as "unFrench"—that is, contrary to the ideas and values, however defined, that make up "Frenchness"—emerged in the interwar years and subsequently took root long before the terrorist campaigns of Algerian nationalists during the 1950s and 1960s.

Millington conceptualizes "terrorism" not only as the act itself, but also as a political and cultural construction of violence composed from a variety of discourses and deployed in particular circumstances by commentators, witnesses, and perpetrators. In doing so, he argues that the political and cultural battles inherent to perceptions of terrorism lay bare numerous concerns, not least anxieties over immigration, antiparliamentarianism, representations of gender, and the future of European peace.

About the author

Chris Millington is Reader in Modern European History at Manchester Metropolitan University.

"Historical works tied to empirical research are limited in the field of terrorism studies. Chris Millington remedies this omission with a superb exploration of the culture of terrorism and its representations in late Third Republic France."

—Annette Finley-Croswhite, Old Dominion University

"The Invention of Terrorism in France, 1904–1939 is a brilliant, original and much needed piece of terrorism history. Meticulously researched, expertly analyzed, and told with a novelist's flair, it is sure to become a classic."

—Richard Jackson, The University of Otago, New Zealand

"This engrossing book offers a brilliant new perspective on the cultural construction of terrorism in not only France but worldwide. In part a riveting detective story, it unpeels layers of media and political obfuscation to reveal the truth behind the motivations of little-known, but very consequential, assassins and bomb throwers."

—Richard Bach Jensen, Northwestern State University of Louisiana

"Terrorism has declined since the remarkably bloody 1970s and 1980s, when the German Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Italian Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari were active, but policymakers have become even more forceful in trying to stamp it out. Millington's history goes further back to France in the first four decades of the twentieth century—a period in which attempts by both anarchist leftists and extreme rightists to assassinate top political figures were numerous and often successful."

—Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs

"Millington reveals how terrorism in France has been tied to the issue of immigration since the early 20th century. Recommended."

—S. L. Harp, CHOICE