The Infernal Machine

A History of Terrorism

A highly accessible account of the history of terrorism that places 9/11 and Al Qaeda in historical context

“Matthew Carr has written a brilliant book. The Infernal Machine brims with insight. Here, finally, we are able to see modern terrorism in its proper context.” —Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

Today, political violence has become the scourge of our world and terrorism is routinely described as a uniquely modern evil. Yet however unprecedented in scope the new terrorist organizations might appear, Matthew Carr argues in this definitive history of terrorism that they are merely offshoots of a spectacular bombing in 1881: the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II by terrorists . . . or were they freedom fighters?

Thus begins a narrative of extraordinary sweep that Publishers Weekly called “engrossing, unsettling” and the Boston Globe praised as “brave and wise” and “a book for the ages.” In The Infernal Machine, Carr unearths the complex realities of terrorist violence and its indelible impact on nations as different as Italy, Argentina, France, Algeria, Ireland, Russia, Japan, and the United States.

Spanning over a century of world history, The Infernal Machine reveals stunning similarities in societies’ responses to terrorism despite profound political and cultural differences. Carr demonstrates again and again that the true impact of terrorism has been felt in the overreactions of government and the media to acts of political violence. This “encyclopedic and diagnostic . . . primer for our frightening times” (Edmonton Journal) allows us to see our current predicament against a background of striking historical parallels.


“The best written and most comprehensive history of terrorism we have.”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of The Blowback Trilogy
“Carr makes about as much sense of terrorism, in its historic and current permutations, as any author is likely to do.”
The Boston Globe
“Matthew Carr has assembled a rich narrative, enlivened by pen portraits, real and fictional.”
The Globe and Mail

Books by Matthew Carr

Sherman’s Ghosts
Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War

Matthew Carr

Fortress Europe
Dispatches from a Gated Continent

Matthew Carr

Blood and Faith
The Purging of Muslim Spain

Matthew Carr

The Savage Frontier
The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination

Matthew Carr

Goodreads Reviews