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Humans were born armed. Before Homo sapiens first walked the Earth, proto-humans had manufactured spears and other tools not only to hunt and defend themselves but also to attack other humans. The war instinct is part of human nature, but the means to fight war depend on technology. Politics, economics, ideology, culture, strategy, tactics, and philosophy have all shaped war, but none of these factors has driven the evolution of warfare as much as technology. Expanding on this compelling thesis, this book traces the co-evolution of technology and war from the Stone Age to the age of cyberwar and nanotechnology.
Alex Roland shines a light on the patterns of interaction between technology and warfare, describing the sensational inventions that changed the direction of war throughout history: fortified walls, the chariot, swift and nimble battleships, the gunpowder revolution, and finally aircraft, bombers, rockets, submarines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and nuclear weapons. In the twenty-first century, scientific and engineering research is constantly transforming war and simultaneously producing countless technological innovations. Yet even now, the newest and best technology cannot guarantee victory. Rather, technology and warfare remain in a timeless dialectic, spurring change without ever stabilizing a military balance of power. New technologies continue to push warfare in unexpected directions, while warfare pulls technology into new stunning possibilities.
In an era of computers, drones, and robotic systems, Roland reminds us that, although military technologies keep changing at a precipitous speed, the principles and patterns behind them abide. Brimming with dramatic narratives of battles and deep insights into military psychology, this Very ShortIntroduction is ultimately an original account of human history seen through the kaleidoscopic lens of war technology.
Alex Roland is Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University. He specializes in military history and the history of technology. He has written extensively on Western military experience, underwater warfare, aerospace history, computer development, U.S. maritime history, and the U.S. military-industrial complex.