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234 × 156 mm
344 pages
81 illustrations
12 Oct 2020
  • £18.00

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Assassins’ Deeds A History of Assassination from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day John Withington

Assassins have been murdering the powerful and famous for at least 4,000 years. At first, the most common reason was personal ambition, and the perpetrators were often close family, like the Turkish sultan who had nineteen of his brothers strangled. More recent motives include religion and political ideology.

For centuries, methods changed little – stabbing, poison, strangling. All required getting right up to the target, and even when firearms appeared, assassins usually preferred the handgun at close quarters to the sniper’s rifle. And many victims were surprisingly careless: Abraham Lincoln had let his bodyguard go for a drink.

So does assassination work? Assassins’ Deeds delves into some of history’s most notorious acts, unveiling an intriguing cast of characters, nail-biting drama and many unintended consequences.

‘Like Shakespeare himself, Assassins’ Deeds offers us a stage memorably strewn with the most distinguished of corpses. ‘Bloody instructions’ (as Macbeth called them) are certainly to be found here in abundance. But there are also wise words about how often incompetence and unintended consequences derail the best laid plans. Assassination, Withington instructs us in entertaining style, is no exact science. A messy tale: and a haunting one.’ — Dr Tim Wilson, Director, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St Andrews

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John Withington is an award-winning television journalist, based in London, whose previous books include Secrets of the Centenarians (Reaktion, 2017).


1 The ancient world
2 The Roman Empire and the Dark Ages
3 The Age of Chivalry
4 The Wars of Religion
5 The Age of Revolution
6 The Modern Age: World Wars and Terrorism
7 The Ones That Got Away

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