The ISIS Reader

Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement

February 2020 9781787381971 326pp


In the wake of its ‘Caliphate’ declaration in 2014, the self-described Islamic State has been the focus of countless academic papers, government studies, media commentaries and documentaries. Despite all this attention, persistent myths continue to shape—and misdirect—public understanding and strategic policy decisions. A significant factor in this trend has been a strong disinclination to engage critically with Islamic State’s speeches and writings—as if doing so reflects empathy with the movement’s goals or, even more absurdly, may itself lead to radicalisation.

Going beyond the descriptive and the sensationalist, this volume presents and analyses a series of milestone Islamic State primary source materials. Scholar-practitioners with field experience in confronting the movement explore and contextualise Islamic State’s approach to warfare, propaganda, leadership, and governance. Telling the ‘inside story’ of the Islamic State movement, they examine the factors behind its dramatic evolution from a wandering ‘band of brothers’ led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Islamic State in Iraq then failed proto-state by 2010, standard-bearer of global jihadism in 2014 to besieged insurgency in 2019.

The ISIS Reader will help anyone—students and journalists, military personnel, civil servants and inquisitive observers—not only to better understand the evolution of Islamic State and the dynamics of asymmetric warfare, but also to see the importance of primary sources to this endeavour.


‘The authors have painstakingly translated documents, basic texts, press statements and retributory literature, analysing and explaining with copious footnotes, that help the reader understand the ISIS monster and its tentacles.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘An important work that should be read by anyone interested in truly understanding the history of the Islamic State.’ — Perspectives on Terrorism

‘An extraordinary resource for all defenders of pluralism and the free society.’ — Areo Magazine

‘[The ISIS Reader] offers a rich view of the signal moments in the Islamic State’s early and recent history, coupled with analysis and commentary that is incisive and will be helpful as the world considers the future trajectory of the Islamic State. … This book will be a valuable resource to scholars from a variety of different disciplines and methodological perspectives.’ — Terrorism and Political Violence

The ISIS Reader is exceptional and not merely another title to consider for one’s personal or academic library. It presents exacting and collaborative scholarship which is, at many points, groundbreaking. A number of audiences will welcome this book, from teachers in under-graduate classrooms, to faculty holding graduate seminars on jihadism and violent non-state actors, to policy planners.’ — Special Operations Journal

‘An absolutely essential reference work. The authors have masterfully assembled documents that shed important light on ISIS’s ideology, world view, and approaches to warfare and governance, and its place in the Salafi-Jihadi universe.’ — Bruce Hoffman, Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University, and author of Inside Terrorism

‘A remarkable work of textual historiography, The ISIS Reader blends a careful selection of primary sources with insightful analysis. Scholarly yet accessible, it is an indispensable resource to understand the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation.’ — Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Program on Extremism, George Washington University

‘Each author of The ISIS Reader is brilliant and authoritative. Together, they have created an essential work, combining carefully curated primary sources with deeply informed analysis.’ — J.M. Berger, Associate Fellow, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror

‘An enormously useful set of carefully curated primary sources that cuts through the fog of when, why and how ISIS emerged and evolved.’ — Elisabeth Kendall, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford

‘You’ve seen their graphic violence, but have you read their texts? Few have, but now three leading jihadism experts have parsed the ISIS corpus and produced a fascinating guide through the Caliphate’s dark ideological world.’ — Thomas Hegghammer, Senior Research Fellow, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment

‘The authors have done a meticulous job of translating key ISIS texts and tying them together into a coherent, historical narrative. Rigorous and authoritative—an essential resource.’ — Anne Stenersen, Research Fellow, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment


Craig Whiteside teaches National Security Affairs at the Naval War College Monterey, California.

Charlie Winter is a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King's College London. His PhD research, which was funded by Facebook, explored how violent extremists articulate meaning through visual propaganda. He also holds degrees in Arabic and Middle East Studies.

Haroro J. Ingram is a senior research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.