The World That Never Was, By Alex Butterworth

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The Independent Culture

Famously exemplified by Martial Bourdin, whose fatally botched attempt to blow up Greenwich Observatory in 1894 inspired Conrad's The Secret Agent, the final years of the 19th century gave birth to the cartoon anarchist carrying a fizzing bomb.

In fact, anarchist ideals of the era were closer to Paul Signac's 1895 painting In Time of Harmony, an Elysian scene featuring nothing more explosive than a game of boules.

Butterworth explores this dichotomy in his rich and enthralling work. His account of international terrorism has superficial parallels with Al-Queda, but Butterworth maintains the main similarity between then and now is "the obscene discrepancies between rich and poor".