The first use of “terrorism”

Did you ever wonder when the term “terrorism” first appeared, and against what terror it was aimed?

George Bush and Dick Cheney will not like the answer. François Furstenberg gives the history of the term in an opposite-editorial page piece in the New York Times, “Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons.”

Here’s a hint: The phrase referred to governmental the ruling party’s actions against its own people, originally.

Furstenberg is a professor of history at the University of Montreal, and a scholar of George Washington.

3 Responses to The first use of “terrorism”

  1. jonolan says:

    The US doesn’t have a direct equivalent of the Jacobin Club because we don’t have that level of unrest. During the Reign of Terror multiple groups were all trying to take over France in the wake of the revolution. Now Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have direct equivalents. The warlords, Al Quaeda and the Taliban.

    You’ll have to move over to fear mongering and repression if you want direct – though a bit stretched – correlations with the US government.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    A fine point — I may be on the wrong side of it — but Furstenberg notes a terrorist was one of the Jacobins who ruled, which is why I equated it with governmental action. Am I working too hard not to blame the Republicans? What’s our equivalent of the Jacobin leaders Fursteberg talks about?


  3. jonolan says:

    Sort of – the first usage of the term terrorism was to describe the behavior of the Jacobin Club in post-Revolutionary France. Since the Jacobin Club was only one of the radical violent groups striving for power during the Reign of Terror it is inaccurate to describe it as governmental action.

    This is of course only referencing the English language term – terrorism.


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