TECHNOLOGY AND WAR: From 2000 B.C. to the Present by Martin van Creveld

TECHNOLOGY AND WAR: From 2000 B.C. to the Present

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From military historian van Creveld (History/Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem), an evenhanded defense of the proposition that ""war is permeated by technology and governed by it."" Drawing on a wealth of secondary sources, the author (who broadly defines technology as ""an abstract system of knowledge, an attitude towards life and a method for solving its problems"") divides his probe of a largely overlooked subject into four parts. The first, which examines the period extending from just before 2000 B.C. through the Renaissance, was an age of tools whose use depended on muscle power. The unifying elements in van Creveld's second epoch (lasting until about 1830) are machines deriving their energy from nonorganic sources like gunpowder, water, and wind. A third section assesses the military impact of developments in aviation, ground transport, and telephony up to 1945, while the fourth examines the implications of technological advances in the atomic/aerospace age that followed WW II. By no means a predictable analyst, van Crevel speculates that cybernetic systems able to detect and react to changes in their environment may be more important than nuclear weapons. In like vein, he argues forcefully that the effect of firearms upon military strategy, tactics, logistics, and communications has been more limited than generally appreciated. The author warns, moreover, that striving for technological advantage in the martial arts can prove a chimerical quest; English longbows, for instance, won the day at CrÉcy owing largely to the fact that they were expedient foils for French arms, not because of any intrinsic superiority. Similarly, he cautions that there's a constant if often-ignored need to weigh technological efficiency against military effectiveness. Unique perspectives covering 4,000 years of increasingly sophisticated warfare--with particular appeal to those with a special interest in the field.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1988
ISBN: 0029331536
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan