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The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror

The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror
Author: John Merriman
ISBN 13: 9780618555987
ISBN 10: 618555986
Edition: 1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 2009-02-12
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 224
List Price: $26.00

The fascinating story of a long-forgotten "war on terror" that has much in common with our own

On a February evening in 1894, a young radical intellectual named Émile Henry drank two beers at an upscale Parisian restaurant, then left behind a bomb as a parting gift. This incident, which rocked the French capital, lies at the heart of The Dynamite Club, a mesmerizing account of Henry and his cohorts and the war they waged against the bourgeoisie—setting off bombs in public places, killing the president of France, and eventually assassinating President McKinley in 1901.

Paris in the belle époque was a place of leisure, elegance, and power. Newly electrified, the city’s wide boulevards were lined with posh department stores and outdoor cafés. But prosperity was limited to a few. Most lived in dire poverty, and workers and intellectuals found common cause in a political philosophy—anarchism—that embraced the overthrow of the state by any means necessary.

Yet in targeting civilians to achieve their ends, the dynamite bombers charted a new course. Seeking martyrdom, believing fervently in their goal, and provoking a massive government reaction that only increased their ranks, these "evildoers" became, in effect, the first terrorists in modern history.

Surprising and provocative, The Dynamite Club is a brilliantly researched account that illuminates a period of dramatic social and political change—and subtly asks us to reflect upon our own.

Publishers Weekly

Those who think of terrorism as an inexplicable evil produced by an alien culture will have their eyes opened by this fascinating study of 19th-century anarchist terrorists. Yale historian Merriman (History of Modern Europe) tells the story of Émile Henry, a well-educated young man from a politically radical family who tossed a bomb into a crowded Paris cafe in 1894. In Merriman's portrait, Henry emerges as an understandable, if not sympathetic, figure-a sensitive dreamer whose outrage at the misery of the poor curdled into a fanatical hatred of bourgeois society. He found a home in Europe's percolating anarchist movement, whose adherents celebrated a cult of revolutionary violence and sang hymns to "Lady Dynamite"; their bombings and assassinations set off a wave of panic and police repression. Merriman's account frames an illuminating study of working-class radicalism in belle époque France and its bitter conflict with the establishment in an age when class warfare was no metaphor. It's also an absorbing true crime story, with Dostoyevskian overtones, about high ideals that motivate desperate acts. Photos. (Feb. 12)

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