SpyCast 1.16.24
Ep 617 | 1.16.24

Rise of Devils: The Origins of Modern Terrorism with James Crossland

Show Notes


James Crossland (Twitter) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss the origins of modern terrorism. James is an expert on terrorism, intelligence, and propaganda.

What You’ll Learn


  • The origins of modern terrorism 
  • 19th century spymasters 
  • Covert action and assassinations
  • Intelligence as a weapon


  • Philosophy and ideology’s effect on history
  • The power of fear

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast Andrew was joined by James Crossland, author of the new book The Rise of Devils: Fear and the Origins of Modern Terrorism. James is a Professor of International History and the Co-Director of Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. He has authored five books, including an upcoming exploration of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, the wartime head of the clandestine propaganda organization, the Political Warfare Executive. 

In this episode, James and Andrew discuss the origins of modern terrorism through the events of the so-called “Long 19th Century,” including numerous assassinations and the rises of Marxism, nihilism, and anarchism. 19th century Europe was a tumultuous time of revolutionary thought and violent action. How did this era directly engender the World Wars of the next century, and what role did intelligence play in the chaos that was ensued by the rise of terrorism? Tune in to find out. 


100 years after the late 19th century events discussed in this episode, a new form of anarchical expression arose: Punk Rock. Emerging largely out of New York and London, the punk subculture focused on the ideas of non-conformity and anti-authoritarianism, all with a sharp spiky-haired and leather jacket-wearing fashion edge. After listening to this episode, turn on some tunes from The Clash, the Ramones, or the Sex Pistols

Quotes of the Week

“These waves of repression that feed into discontent and create more radical strains of discontent, that is a process that's really observable during this period. The reason why I think this is the first real age of terrorism is because you have all this stuff coming together: Communications that you need to promote terrorist activities to gain the attention you need, societal discontent, dangerous ideas … and it's all moving around together as part of the same process.” – James Crossland. 



*Spotlight Resource* 

  • The Rise of Devils: Fear and the Origins of Modern Terrorism, J. Crossland (Manchester University Press, 2023) 


*Beginner Resources*

  • Terrorism, J. P. Jenkins, Encyclopaedia Brittanica (2023) [Short article / definition]
  • What Were The Most Important Events of the 19th Century?, C. Seaver, History Defined (2022) [Short article]
  • Marxism in Under 5 Minutes, Theory in 5, YouTube (2020) [3 min. video] 



  • Sofia Perovskaya, Terrorist Princess: The Plot to Kill Tsar Alexander II and the Woman Who Led It, R. R. Riggs (Global Harmony Press Inc., 2018)
  • The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, R. J. Evans (Penguin Books, 2017) 
  • Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, M. Burleigh (Harper, 2009)



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • You may have already read his classic play Crime and Punishment, but have you read Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (1869)? 
  • This novel is known as Dostoevsky’s most personal work, a story that clearly shows the threads of his own life experiences during 19th century Russia. The novel explores many of the same questions of philosophy and politics explored in this episode of SpyCast.