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Responding to Terrorism

Responding to Terrorism

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Earlier this week I posted a blog about Jacobean ‘terrorism’ (to coincide with the 408th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot). This was one of the issues that I mentioned today during my lecture on Responding to Terrorism delivered to students from the Department of War Studies at Kings College London.

I’ve provided my slides below, and ask you to forgive the formatting errors which have occurred in uploading to SlideShare! I’ve sat through lectures where the presenter reads text from a slide…that is not my style. However, without the description to accompany the slides some of the points may not make complete sense. In hindsight, I should have recorded my presentation…I’ll try and arrange that the next time I present on something.

Anyway, enough from me, take a look at the slides and let me know what you think.

If you want to know more on my thoughts on responding to terrorism, or would like to invite me to present, please get in touch!

You’ll also notice in the slides that I relate back to a number of historical London disasters – remember you can find out more about them on one of my Disaster Tours!

Gunpowder Plot: something more than terror?

Gunpowder Plot: something more than terror?

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Britain has a long history of religious conflict, mostly forgotten by largely secular modern society. However, every year on the 5 November one such event is commemorated across the country.

Later this week I’m lecturing at Kings College London on a module entitled Responding to Terrorism. In preparation, I’ve been looking at how on the surface the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 reads like modern-day terrorism and how Russell Brand might have something to learn from history.


First, let’s look at the Gunpowder Plot: a fringe group of religiously motivated fanatics planning to detonate explosives in an underground area beneath a well-known location in an attempt to change the government to one favouring their religion. It certainly brandishes all the hallmarks of terrorist incidents that we’re familiar with in 2013.

Even today, over 400 years after the plot was foiled, the Houses of Parliament in London are surrounded by metal and concrete barriers; it remains a target for terrorism.

However, going one step further than the ‘modern’ terrorist, the 13 conspirators (I’ll take off my broad-brimmed hat and cloak if anyone can name, without Googling, more than one of them?!) had developed a plan which went considerably further than striking ‘terror’ into the hearts and minds of the public.

Following their planned explosion designed to kill the King and the Government, they next planned to kidnap the daughter of the King, Princess Elizabeth, and create a Catholic government around the puppet crown. It is worth recognising that the plan was more sophisticated than just destroy the current system and see what happens. Interestingly, this latter approach seems to be the style of ‘revolution’ that comedian Russell Brand has recently called for. Additionally, it is interesting to see that protest groups are now using the imagery and metaphor associated with the Fifth of November to stage their own protests about perceived injustice.

The semantics of whether or not the 1605 plot was ‘terrorism’ isn’t really the issue for my lecture. What I’m interested in is how have responses changed. Our understanding of modern terrorism shapes our opinions of past events. But at the same time, are there things that we can learn from history to deal with modern risks?

Not wanting to give away my secrets before Thursday, check back later in the week for my thoughts!

Oh, and I should also mention that it’s not just because of the foiled plot that the Houses of Parliament feature on my Disaster Tour!


Image Credit: Anon Online/Twitter

Mohs Scale of (CT) Hardness

Mohs Scale of (CT) Hardness

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Remember when you were at school and you did experiments? Those were the days (although the workbench in Mr Stanley’s lab never really recovered from one involving magnesium).


Yesterday I attended Counter Terrorism Expo 2013, along with several hundred other people from a whole variety of industries and organisations. Enthusiastic marketing materials meant I had a preconception about what I would be seeing…this expectation, sady was not met. However, it did look like lots of people had managed to find jobs where they continue to be able to perform experiments!

I lost count of the numbers of panes of ‘blast and balistic proof’ glass and ‘Hostile Vehcile Mitigation’ measures I saw, but it paled in comparison to the miles of intruder-resistant fencing.

I’m not suggesting that these measures don’t serve useful purposes; I’m sure that many an incident has been prevented, or it’s impact reduced, by the presence of these features. But what I was surprised at, was the absolute obsession on physical security.


This brings me back to German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and his Scale of Hardness…

In my opinion, Counter Terrorism interventions fall along a continuum of hardness (yes, that’s a term I’ve coined myself). It’s perfectly fine having fences and CCTV, but that’s treating the symptoms rather than the underlying causes.

I was surprised by yesterday’s exhibition, that there was a complete omission of some of the softer aspects of countering terrorist activity. Interventions such as the promotion of democracy, economic development, education, engagement and counter-radicalization could all have useful applications. In addition, monitoring community tensions and sentiment could provide the ‘canary in the mine’ for the implementation or activation of some of the harder approaches.

Trade shows and exhibitions serve a certain purpose, but it’s important when attending them to remember that the shiny toys and experiments performed in front of your eyes are just one of many soloutions.