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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues that the modern concept of terrorism does not fit the realities or worldviews that characterize medieval societies. Instead, therefore, the article explores the wider use of instrumental terror in the period, that is, the deliberate use of extreme fear to achieve some goal or set of goals indirectly, rather than by the direct application of force. It concludes that instrumental terror formed an important part of the repertoire of power in medieval Europe. It was most often applied through violence wielded from the top down, by people wishing to impose or maintain their power over others. It was occasionally, however, used from the bottom up, in an effort to destabilize or overturn a dominant order. Its legitimacy was subjective; while some medieval sources condemn it, others present it as necessary and even positive.

Keywords: terror, terrorism, instrumental, medieval, Middle Ages, violence, power, order

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