• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Hostage taking is the act of abducting and/or imprisoning a person for political or monetary gain; since the 1960s, it has evolved into one of the distinctive tactics of modern terrorism.

The practice of taking hostages has a long history. In ancient and medieval times, hostages (often the families of nobles) were sometimes taken by rival powers during times of peace, in the hope that the possibility of their death would prevent the outbreak of war. In war, kings and other rulers were also often captured and held hostage in exchange for ransom payments. This kind of hostage taking had generally ceased with the evolution of the modern nation-state—the relationship of a political leader to the hostage, or the hostage to the functioning of a state, was no longer so close or direct. Terrorism in the 1960s reverted to some of the ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles