Instruments of War: Weapons and Technologies That Have Changed History

Instruments of War: Weapons and Technologies That Have Changed History Author Spencer Tucker
File size 6.5MB
Year 2015
Pages 454
Language English
File format PDF
Category History

Book Description:

This is a good general guide to "instruments of war" as described in the title. The subtitle is "weapons and technologies that have changed history" which the book doesn't describe well--there's not much consideration of what technologies were most important or of why they changed history. Tucker, who is a prolific writer (and also a professor) may assume that's all common knowledge, but it strikes me as the weak point of the book.

The weapons and technologies are roughly chronological, but not alphabetical, so the organization isn't very systematic. There are not many illustrations, although what's in the book are very good. The items are described in brief, sometimes in a couple of paragraphs and sometimes a couple of pages, each followed by a short listing of further reading, a nice feature. The weapons go back to the club and spear, and continue through smart bombs. There's a lot of interesting material on things like tanks, artillery, rifles, gas, the Paris gun, machine guns and so on. Tucker's writing is clear as a bell and objective.

There is so much in this book that even military history wonks will probably learn something. Here are some things that struck me, in no particular order. Tomahawks belong to the Indian wars, right? Wrong, some were issued to US soldiers during the Vietnam war. British cops use chain mail gloves to deal with knife-wielding attackers. The famed HMS Victory, still in commission after 200-plus years, is 4,000 tons displacement, I had no idea wooden ships, even ships of the line, were that large. The derringer, the miniature pistol, was named after gunsmith Henry Deringer. There's a photo of a dynamite gun (artillery) that used compressed air, used by the US in Cuba in the Spanish war. The famed HMS Dreadnought during its career sank one enemy vessel, a German sub, by ramming it. There's more trivia (and of course knowledge) than this.

This kind of book has for me an odd fascination. Such a huge amount of human creativity has gone into the means to maim and kill people. We seem to be getting better and better at devising means to do so.

That said, this is a worthwhile read, either straight through or as a browsing read.


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