The Dynamite Club


John Merriman holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan and is currently a Modern European history as well as a French teacher at Yale University. He is the author of books such as The Agony of the Republic, The Repression of the Left in Revolutionary France, Dynamite Club, The Massacre, and The Margins of city Life, Ballad of the Anarchist Bandits among others (Press, Yale). His edited books include Consciousness and Class Experience, French Cities in the Nineteenth Century and For Want of a Horse.


The Dynamite Club is a chronicle of Parisian café bombing which occurred in 1894 by Emile Henry. In this attack innocent civilians who were different from other previous attacks where only government officials were attacked (Browse). During the attack, one French civilian was killed and twenty severely wounded. In this book the author to establish the factors that motivated Emile to carry out the attack. According to Merriman, the terrorist attacked due to inequality in the economic and social settings. Henry had experienced first-hand inequality as he has witnessed the lives of citizens in two distinct cities.

One of the city has luxurious hotels, and the residents can afford expensive consumer goods while on the other city residents are filled with hunger since the majority are unemployed.  Henry had carried out other attacks including on the police station before the Parisian café bombing. Since he felt that the government was corrupt and there was a huge gap between the rich and the poor majority of his attacks had been on the government and the wealthy (Merriman). He was finally killed, but to some, he was a martyr, and another anarchist killed sadi Carnot who was the French President with a knife. Anarchist attacks were rampant before World War I and continued after the war.


In his book, Merriman has used both primary and secondary sources of information.


The book by Merriman is well arranged with all topics discussed in the book listed in the table of contents. The table of contents has adequately covered the topics discussed hence easing the process of ascertaining where certain information can be found within the book. A table of contents acts as a guide for the reader and informs him/her the page(s) where certain information can be found. Without the table of contents, the reader can waste a lot of tie perusing along to find particular information.


In The Dynamite Club, Merriman claims that Parisian Café bombing was significant in modern history since the ordinary people had become the target of the terrorists (Merriman). Before this attack terrorists had been targeting government institutions as well as the wealthy. The author compares the attack in France in 1890s with the attacks that happen today. Henry believed that there was economic and social inequality and someone had to fight for the marginalized population. Merriman presents a premise that there is a direct relationship between terrorism in the twenty-first century that has Islamic fundamentals and that carried out by anarchists such as Henry. There was a growing gap between the rich and the poor with the rich owning buildings selling expensive garments as well as jewelry.


The Parisian bourgeoisie had the best infrastructure including magnificent cafes and shops. According to Merriman, the wealthy lived in the suburbs while the middle class lived in abject poverty (Merriman). This is what motivated Henry to contact initiate attacks on the civilians as he believed that there was unfairness and the rich continued to live a luxurious life while there were those in the same city who were struggling to survive. Although Anarchist were judged harshly they never tired from fighting for what they believed in.

Auguste Vaillant, for example, had become desperate after failing to sustain her family and designed a bomb not intended to kill but to wound with the aim of raising grievances on the working conditions (Merriman). However, the jury was not lenient on his case and was prosecuted although he had not killed anyone. From this incidence, it was evident that the poor were disadvantaged since they could not afford basic needs. There are those who believed that the terrorists were heroes and were ready to avenge their deaths. A month after Henry was killed Santo Caserio assassinated the president of France Sadi Carnot.


Works Cited

Browse, Book. “Summary and Reviews of the Dynamite Club by John Merriman.” Bookbrowse.Com, 2014,

Press, Yale. “John Merriman | Department Of History.” History.Yale.Edu, 2019,

Merriman, John M. The dynamite club: how a bombing in fin-de-siècle Paris ignited the age of modern terror. Yale University Press, 2016.