Human history—from the empires of the ancient world to the superpowers of the 21st century—has been inextricably shaped by conflict and the weapons that have been used to wage it. The technologies that have produced advanced civilizations have also been harnessed to the grim business of warfare. The trains that carried working people to their first seaside holidays in the 19th century also took millions of young men to war in 1914. Nearly a century later, the computer revolution, which by 2000 had come to dominate almost every aspect of life in advanced societies, had also introduced us to a new fifth dimension of warfare, in which governments jostle brutally in cyberspace.
This short history, stretching from the chariot to the Stuxnet virus which disabled Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme in 2007, charts some of the most significant weapons, fortifications and tactics that have been developed in the last 2,500 years.
Since 1945, the pace of change has been relentless. In the present day, the main battle tank is facing obsolescence as the master of the battlefield, and the introduction of the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) threatens the livelihoods of many of the highly trained establishments of the world’s leading air forces. In contrast, the many asymmetric conflicts raging around the globe in countries of the Third World attest to the durability of one of the 20th century’s most remarkable weapons, the Kalashnikov assault rifle, developed in the later 1940s and still in service worldwide. This is a scintillating introduction to the world’s most enduring phenomenon.
About Robin Cross
Robin Cross is a historian specializing in the Second World War. He is the author of over 30 books, two of which, VE Day and We’ll Meet Again, have been Sunday Times bestsellers. Other books include Citadel: The Battle of Kursk (now a Penguin History Classic), Fallen Eagle, an account of the fall of the Third Reich, and Warrior Women (both published by Quercus). He has also written scripts for over 150 television programs, mostly focusing on the Second World War and 20th-century history. He is married to the historical novelist Rosalind Miles and they live in Faversham, Kent.
50 Events You Really Need to Know: History of War by Robin Cross