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People Targetted for Assessination Turning Points that Did and Did Not Change the Course of History

  • Political murders are as old as politics. Rulers have needed bodyguards to protect them from assassins since long before the word ‘assassin’ was invented – the name of the mystical cult of Hashashins based at Alamut Castle between the eighth and eleventh centuries.

  • Assassinations arise from many different motives: eliminating rivals to seize power in the state; using state power to eliminate perceived threats to security; lone assassins pursuing a personal agenda; insurgent groups promoting their cause against authority; terrorists motivated by ideology. The methods, the weapons and the political justifications might change with historical fashions but the principles of political assassination are always the same.

  • Some assassinations are merely shocking, tragic events that do not change anything. Other assassinations send out shock waves that change the course of history – it has often been claimed that the murder at Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the First World War. It is also worth considering the failed assassination attempts that might have changed the world if they had succeeded. This is often said about the July Plot to kill Hitler in 1944 but that was after Hitler had almost conquered all of Europe; the less well known near-miss by the lone assassin Georg Elser in Munich in 1939 might really have changed everything.

 

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