Skip over navigation

Cyril Black International Book Forum

The Cyril Black International Book Forum is held in honor of the late Cyril Black, the emeritus James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University. Black was director of the Princeton’s Center of International Studies from 1968 to 1985 and a member of the University faculty for 50 years.


The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State

The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State
Author William McCants is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World.

Mark Beissinger, Politics and Director of PIIRS
Jake Shapiro, Politics
Cole Bunzel, Ph.D Candidate, Near Eastern Studies
Michael Cook, Near Eastern Studies

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Aaron Burr Hall, Room 219
4:30 p.m.
Reception to follow

About the Book

The Islamic State is one of the most lethal and successful jihadist groups in modern history, surpassing even al-Qaeda. Thousands of its followers have marched across Syria and Iraq, subjugating millions, enslaving women, beheading captives, and daring anyone to stop them. Thousands more have spread terror beyond the Middle East under the Islamic State's black flag.

How did the Islamic State attract so many followers and conquer so much land? By being more ruthless, more apocalyptic, and more devoted to state-building than its competitors. The shrewd leaders of the Islamic State combined two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam-the return of the Islamic Empire and the end of the world-into a mission and a message that shapes its strategy and inspires its army of zealous fighters. They have defied conventional thinking about how to wage wars and win recruits. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, jihadist terrorism will never be the same.

Based almost entirely on primary sources in Arabic-including ancient religious texts and secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seen - William McCants' The ISIS Apocalypse explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future.

Author Biography
William McCants is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. He is also adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University and has held various government and think tank positions related to Islam, the Middle East and terrorism. From 2009 to 2011, McCants served as a U.S. State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism. He is also the author of Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam (Princeton University Press, 2011). McCants has a doctorate from Princeton University and has lived in Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.

Past Cyril Black Events

Cyril Black International Book Forum
2015: Andrew Wilson, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and reader in Ukrainian Studies at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, University College London, Ukraine in Crisis
2014: Juan Zarate, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism, Treasury's War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare
2013: Victor Cha, The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future
2012: Steven A. Cook, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square
2011: Barry Eichengreen, Exorbitant Privilege: The Decline of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System
2010: Seth Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires
2009: Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century
2008: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

Cyril Black Memorial Lecture
2006: Adam Michnik, A Dictator’s Past: The Cleansing of Collective Memory
2005: Valerie Bunce, The United States and Democracy Promotion: Learning from Postcommunist Eurasia
2004: Canceled
2003: Thomas Carothers, Democracy by Force: Iraq and the Future of Sovereignty
2002: Strobe Talbott, Russia and the West Under Yeltsin and Putin
2001: Susan Woodward, Surviving Milosevic: The Construction of ‘Normal States’ in the Balkans
2000: Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Transformation of Russia
1999: Richard Holbrooke, Peacemaking in the Balkans
1998: David Remnick ’81, Ten Years Reporting from Russia: New Worlds, Old Worlds
1997: Jack Matlock, Russia, Where to Next?