In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Terrorism

  • Introduction
  • Major Works
  • Textbooks and Readers
  • Conceptual Works
  • General Histories
  • Human Rights

Social Work Terrorism
Peter Lehr, Gillian Duncan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0142


Once rather a marginal niche subject for a few scientists willing to defy the long-established borders of the traditional grand academic disciplines, terrorism studies are currently experiencing a boom—a boom that transformed a niche subject that did not really sit well with any of the established disciplines of social science into a major (research) industry. The current boom in terrorism studies can be explained by just two dates: 9/11 and 7/7. The events of 9/11 triggered the boom in the United States, while the London bombings on 7 July 2005 did the same for the United Kingdom. To a much lesser degree, terrorism studies also saw a certain upswing in Spain after the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004. Still, the current boom seems to be mainly an Anglo-American phenomenon; there is no similar boom noticeable in Germany, France, India, or Japan, for example. In the United States and the United Kingdom, however, the study of terrorism and homeland security is big business now: for state institutions lobbying for a bigger share of the pie, for security consultants and private security firms trying to sell their expertise and their products, for the media competing with each other to sell their stories—and for academia, of course, where individual researchers or whole (new) think tanks compete for ever larger research grants. No wonder every six hours, a new English-language book dealing with terrorism in general or some aspect of it is published, and no wonder the field of terrorism studies branched out into many subfields, each dealing with their own specialized research agendas, such as suicide terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism, or aviation and maritime terrorism. Consequently, it gets ever more difficult even for specialists to keep track of the huge number of publications on terrorism. This bibliography provides an overview of this still-growing field of studies and the still-growing number of publications. We are aware, however, that our choice is a personal one—while some readers may deem certain subfields to be overrepresented to the detriment of what they see to be more important ones, other readers might have wished to find more specialized entries going beyond the “usual suspects.” For this first iteration of this bibliography, this cannot be helped—but we are open to suggestions and (constructive) criticism.

Major Works

What does or does not constitute a major work in any discipline clearly lies in the eyes of the beholder. Major works are defined here as works written by those leading scholars of terrorism studies who dominated discussion, or works that were deemed to be required reading, long before the watershed event of 9/11 that resulted in a sudden flood of publications written mainly by newcomers from other disciplines. Among the leading scholars in the field of terrorism studies undoubtedly are Martha Crenshaw, Walter Laqueur, Paul Wilkinson, Bruce Hoffman, and Louise Richardson, who all can look back on a wide body of publications, of which just five are represented here. Crenshaw 2011 provides the reader with a collection of key essays previously published in a wide range of academic journals, while Hoffman 2006 can be seen as a “one-stop shop” in terrorism studies—if there is a “must read” or a “one-stop shop” in terrorism studies, this is undoubtedly Bruce Hoffman’s book that has seen, for this very reason, several editions already. Historian Walter Laqueur also belongs to the “old guard” of scholars working in the field of terrorism studies, although, in his case, the focus is more on guerrilla warfare than on terrorism—a choice he justifies by stating that “my assumption at that time was that while terrorism was a topic of great fascination, its political importance was limited” (Laqueur 2003, p. 9). Laqueur 2003 focuses on the latter since it now “assumed a far more important role” (p. 9) than before; it aims to explain the “new” elements in contemporary terrorism. Richardson 2006 grapples with and tries to understand the phenomenon of terrorism and is, most definitely, an easy-to-understand book on the topic for the general public. Of special note is Richardson’s critical discussion of the global war on terrorism that, according to her, cannot be won—after all, terrorism is a tactic, and terror an emotion, and you cannot wage war on either of them. Wilkinson 2011 also takes a critical view on this war on terrorism; exploring the “where will we end” aspect of it, the author forcefully argues that “by abandoning the due process under the rule of law and by violating the human rights of suspects, we betray the very values and principles which are the foundation of the democracies we seek to defend” (p. 77).

  • Crenshaw, M. 2011. Explaining terrorism: Causes, processes and consequences. New York: Routledge.

    Martha Crenshaw is one of the earliest academics specializing in what used to be a fringe discipline before the watershed events of 9/11. Among the highlights of this essay collection is her challenge of the familiar notion that 9/11 ushered in an age of “new” terrorism and her evaluation of pre- and post-9/11 counterterrorism strategies in the context of the “grand strategy” of American national security. Hence, this volume should be seen as required reading for anyone with a more than a fleeting interest in terrorism studies.

  • Hoffman, B. 2006. Inside terrorism. 2d rev. ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    In an easy-to-read way, and with broad brush strokes, Hoffman covers all major issues for anyone interested in gaining a quick overview about this field of studies, be it the undergraduate student exposed to terrorism studies for the first time, the postgraduate student or early-stage researcher in need of a quick brush-up, or the nonacademic reader with a more general interest in this area.

  • Laqueur, W. 2003. No end to war: Terrorism in the twenty-first century. London: Continuum.

    In this work, Laqueur not only explores the rise of Islamist terrorism but also the reemergence of the Far Right, the rather diffuse “anti-Americanism” shared by many otherwise hostile movements, and, finally, the possible terrorist battlefields of the future. Whether one agrees with his position or not, reading this book leaves one with a better understanding of the past, present, and future of terrorism.

  • Richardson, L. 2006. What terrorists want: Understanding the terrorist threat. London: John Murray.

    The first part of Richardson’s eloquently written book addresses the usual questions: What is terrorism, what are its roots, where do terrorists come from, and what makes them kill themselves to achieve their objectives? The second part examines counterterrorists, looking at what changed (or not) after 9/11 and what can be done to combat the threat of transnational terrorism.

  • Wilkinson, P. 2011. Terrorism versus democracy: The liberal state response. 3d ed. New York: Routledge.

    Refuting the often-mentioned remark of Maggie Thatcher that “in order to protect democracy, you sometimes have no choice but to use undemocratic means,” Wilkinson forcefully and eloquently argues throughout this book that a balance needs to be kept between our quest for security on the one hand and the preservation of international human rights, peace, and stability on the other.

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