Michael Burleigh   Blood & Rage:
A Cultural History of Terrorism.
HarperPress, 545 pages, £25

If you are searching for a few scraps of comfort about the nature of our species, you would do very well to avoid Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, the latest in a series of profoundly depressing books by the British historian Michael Burleigh. If, on the other hand, your objective is to examine the current global eruption of Islamic extremism through a wider perspective than the usual minaret, mullah, and middle-eastern rancor, Blood & Rage is an essential, imperative read, and well worth crossing the cyber pond to buy (it’s as yet unavailable in the United States).

A decade ago this was probably not a volume Professor Burleigh would have anticipated writing. In the final sentences of his grim, grand, and uncomfortably perceptive The...


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