War and Technology: A Very Short Introduction – Alex Roland

9780190605384‘Humans were born armed’ is the premise to the next of our Very Short Introduction series of reviews, War and Technology, which seeks to trace the combined history of, you guess it – war and technology. Some of you may take issue with the statement – how can a human be born armed? It is interesting to note however, that weapons formed from natural material and used to defend, hunt and fight, have been around before the first Homo sapiens, back to the time of archaic proto-humans. In the 19th century, Jurist Sir Henry Maine famously commented that “War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention.” The same, in fact, is true of technology. For as long as humanity has existed, we have strived to manipulate the world around us to achieve our means –including the creation  and use of weaponry. In effect, the use of weaponry and other military technologies is intrinsic to human nature.

Throughout history, factors such as politics, economics, ideology and culture have had a notable effect on the development of warfare, but no other single variable even comes close to the effect of technology. The changes of warfare patterns,, from the Stone Age right up  to the Atomic Age can each be comprehended by the development of new technologies, such as early stone axes of prehistoric man and nuclear warheads, which now lay dormant on the shores of every developed nation. The so-called ‘principles of war’ – objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuverer, unity of command, security, surprise and simplicity – can be applied and understood throughout history, but none can explain the evolution of technology. As author Alex Roland points out, Alexander the Great may have conquered Afghanistan and gone on to be remembered as one of history’s greatest captions, but he would be baffled and bemused by satellites, aeroplanes and explosives. The fundamentals of war are timeless, but technology is incessantly changing.

In War and Technology A Very Short Introduction, Roland attempts to follow the history of these two subjects and open the inquisitive reader’s eyes to the complex growth and collaboration of these two innately human phenomena. Exploring warfare from land, sea, air and even space, while delving into the realm of cyber warfare, psychological warfare and the war on terror, Roland presents an analysis that, although largely western, is universally applicable in concept. Whether your interest is in war or technology, this book is sure to grab your attention and enrich your mind.

This review was first published on WordPress for E&T magazine

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