History Department
History Department

Historian of modern France to give a lecture

Wed, September 23, 2009
Historian of modern France to give a lecture
Oswaldo Tofani: A Bomb at the Cafe Terminus, the Arrest of the Assassin, illustration from Le Petit Journal, Feb. 26, 1894

The talk is based on Merriman's latest book, The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Terror, published in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin.

Merriman, the Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale University, is author of several seminal works in modern French and European history, including Police Stories: Building the French State, 1815-1851 (Oxford University Press, 2005); A History of Modern Europe (Norton, multiple editions); and The Margins of City Life:  Explorations on the French Urban Frontier, 1815-1851 (Oxford University Press, 1991).

The talk will take place at noon in GAR 4.100. This event is sponsored by the Institute for Historical Studies and the History Dept. It is free and open to the public.

Book Review, Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)

"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."

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