Terrorism has been around as a major nuisance to governments as long as recorded history. The Bible advocates terror, assassination, and annihilation in several places (see the book of Numbers and book of Joshua). Regicide, or the killing of kings by rivals, and the brutal suppression of loyalists afterwards, has been an established pattern of political ascent since Julius Caesar (44 B.C.). The Zealots in Israel (100 A.D.) fought Roman occupation with hit-and-run tactics in public places. TheAssassins in Iraq (1100 A.D.) fought the Christian Crusaders with suicide tactics. The Thuggees in India (1300 A.D.) kidnapped travelers for sacrifice to their Goddess of Terror, Kali. The Spanish Inquisition (1469-1600) dealt with Heretics by systematized torture, and the whole medieval era was based on terrorizing a countryside. The Luddites (1811-1816) destroyed machinery and any symbol of modern technology. A Serb terrorist (1914) started World War I. Hitler's rise to power (1932) involved plans for genocide. Nations like Ireland, Cyprus, Algeria, Tunisia, and Israel probably would have never become republics if not for revolutionary terrorism, and more than a few people would say the United States was founded on terrorism. However defined, it is clear that terrorism has helped shape world history in a variety of ways, and it has long meant different things to different people.
The academic field of what Ross (2006) calls terrorism studies has grown substantially in recent years. Two scholarly journals focus almost exclusively on the subject -- Terrorism and Political Violence and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. More and better empirical studies have been conducted, and in some ways, despite setbacks such as the U.N. failure to define terrorism (no internationally accepted definition of terrorism exists), better definitions of terrorism have been established. Certain areas of interest are of growing importance, such as the role of the media in terrorism (need for more research on this), and whether 9/11 produced a paradigm shift or whether terrorism is nothing new, among other issues. There is a need to be cautious in tossing the terrorist label around, as most experts (e.g., Hoffman & Claridge 1998) suggest it is better to define terrorism by the nature of the act rather than by the identity or socio-demographics of the perpetrators. Nevertheless, reproduced below (noting there is no "one, best" definition) is the field's so-called "consensus" definition, devised in the early 1980s and probably adhered to by (it can be estimated) about 75% of experts in the field, despite reservations about its failure to distinguish supporters of terrorism as well as terrorism-like criminal behaviors such as drug trafficking:
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