Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Scalora, M. J. (2014). Sometimes we do reinvent the wheel: Commentary on MacDonald (1912). Journal of Threat Assessment & Management, 1(4), 241-242.



Copyright © 2015 American Psychological Association. Used by permission.


As a researcher of targeted violence, I found Arthur MacDonald’s work “Assassins of Rulers” (MacDonald, 1912) very provocative. Although different norms for behavioral and criminological research early the past century may have limited the current applicability of Mac- Donald’s findings, this work highlighted certain paradigmatic issues that have later emerged within the targeted violence literature. Before addressing commonalities with recent research, discussion of methodological issues is warranted. First, one is impressed with how detailed MacDonald’s presentation is across the range of cases of political assassination and regicide. One wonders how more descriptive MacDonald’s work would have been if he had access to the Internet and its vast array of sources in a 24-hr news cycle within our current information saturated culture. On the research methodology side, the applicability of MacDonald’s findings may have been limited by both methodological limitations within his work as well as the limited utilization of behavioral threat assessment concepts by law enforcement during the early 20th century. Further, current researchers and journal reviewers would question MacDonald’s limited sourcing, especially given the descriptive and declarative nature of his research. This study does not contain a research methodology section including sampling strategies, but instead engages in rather descriptive exposition of some of the relevant conditions and behaviors of assassins sampled. Noteworthy, however, is that MacDonald even includes near miss cases, though he does not make note of this distinction.