Interest in terrorism has increased massively in the past four years. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the US and subsequent high-profile bombings in Madrid, London and elsewhere have ensured that the subject has rarely left the media headlines for long.
Psychology has long been seen as a useful lens through which to attempt to understand terrorists, and since 9/11 there have been several edited books that have focused on psychological perspectives on this phenomenon. There has, however, been a noticeable lack of a good single-authored textbook in this subject, so The Psychology of Terrorism fills a valuable gap.
There are many common myths in our understanding of terrorists - for example, that they frequently suffer from personality disorders; that they fit into a single terrorist profile; or, that once they have joined a terrorist group, members can never leave.
John Horgan tackles these (and many other) myths directly, bringing to bear relevant research so as to present a much more balanced view of the terrorist. It is a view likely to astonish those who are familiar only with film and media accounts of what terrorists are supposed to be like.
Horgan's contribution is especially welcome as he is one of the extremely few psychologists who have met and interviewed active terrorists face-to-face. Unlike many desk-bound accounts in the literature, Horgan's book benefits from the many insights he has gained from such unusual personal contact.
Horgan, though, is also a long-standing expert in the area of terrorist psychology with a deep knowledge of the existing literature on the subject.
In this book, he combines personal experience with a highly informed review of relevant research literature. The result is an accessible and very reliable account of what we know about terrorist psychology.
The structure is clear and sensible and the text should be of value to both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I recommend it strongly.
Andrew Silke is field leader for criminology, University of East London.
The Psychology of Terrorism. First edition
Author - John Horgan
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 202
Price - £70.99 and £19.99
ISBN - 0 7146 5268 8 and 8239 X