London was the site of perhaps the first contemplated act of modern terrorism, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, whose thwarting is still celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day. Fawkes had planned to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, and had stored up a huge amount of gunpowder beneath the building to that purpose. John Milton wrote three Latin epigrams on the subject, and another on the inventor of gunpowder. The rebel angels employ explosive canonry in Paradise Lost 6.
John MacGowan has a thoughtful post on the rhetorics of violence on Michael Bérubé's blog.
Today, in line at Wachovia Bank, two middle-aged, white, prosperous men:
1: That's the only thing they understand – violence. You gotta talk to them in the only language they know.
2: Hit 'em hard.
1: It's a war; look how we won World War II – Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
2: But that was a sovereign nation...
1: It's the same, sorta – Islam, the whole thing, think of it as a country. If they know they'll pay, they won't even think of doing these things. Do 'em like the Israelis.
2: Or –
1: Egypt. There's no terrorism in Egypt. Mubarak's got a police state.
2: But –
1: If someone plans a terrorist act, we hit 'em hard.
2: Get their family?
1: Kill their mother – right in front of 'em. Rip 'em open, and make 'em watch. This is war.