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The Incendiary: The Misadventures of John the Painter, First Modern Terrorist
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The Incendiary: The Misadventures of John the Painter, First Modern Terrorist

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  41 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In 1776 and 1777, during the American Revolution, a young Scot known only as John the Painter took his war to England by committing acts of terror in the dockyards of the mighty British navy.

This is the first full-length biography of that brilliant but disturbed young man. His story offers chilling parallels to the present – and insights into why certain young men are driv
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by McClelland & Stewart (first published September 14th 2004)
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I had never even heard of John the Painter when I first encountered this book, so between that and my general interest in American Revolutionary history, it seemed like a worthwhile purchase. (Plus I got it half price at one of those warehouse/bargain bookstores.) James Aitken, a.k.a. John the Painter, isn't one of the more notable figures of Revolutionary history, and not much has been written about him. He was a Scot sympathetic to the American cause during the Revolution who attempted to crip ...more
Stevphen Shukaitis
This is an excellent, captivating, and well written book. I picked it up the other day on sale and read it in under a day. Warner gives a well documented and investigated account of John the Painter's life and deeds. I read it directly after reading Dan Berg's book on the Weather Underground, and one could, if creative enough, perhaps see some connection between their sabotage oriented propaganda and a sort of lineage coming from John the Painter. Also quite nice about the book is the way that W ...more
Pretty interesting story of a guy dubbed "John the Painter" who was a 25 year old Englishman who decided to start burning down parts of England to help the American war effort. He either wasn't the brightest guy, wasn't all there in the head, pro-American independence or thought he'd be catapulted into the American military as an officer if he could help bring victory to the revolutionaries. Maybe it was all of those things that motivated him. Warner builds the story on not a lot of actual docum ...more
Explores the life of a near-forgotten Scottish miscreant, John Aitken, who spread panic in England just before the Revolutionary War with the U.S. Aitken was more of a mischief-maker than a revolutionary, and more of a saboteur than a terrorist, though he did manage to scare the crap out of Bristol and much of the rest of England for a time. Warner is able to dig up only the basics of Aitken's background, and much of the story she tells is obscured by conflicting accounts, but it's still a fasci ...more
Interesting book, if for no other reason it's historical context to today.

Here is the story of the man that might be the first terrorist. He contrives to blow up military facilities, which will probably incur civilian casualties. He uses IED's. He's doing this in the name of revolutionaries fighting an early guerilla war against their government. He gets caught and he's punished in ways that are cruel and unusual.

The funny thing is, it's 1776 and he's doing this in England for the American revol
William J. Shep
This is an interesting example of how current events shape historical writing. Before 911, the story of John the Painter was just another obscure sideshow of the American Revolution, but after 911 this story of 18th century Britain under terrorist attack has a renewed relevance.
Excellent introduction to 18th century England. Though little is known of James Aitken himself, the book does a credible job of guesstimating his motivations in the light of similar cases more thoroughly covered in the historical record.
Fascinating story, a little tedious at times, but well-researched.
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