War and Technology: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780190605384

Alex Roland
152 ページ
120 x 173 mm
Very Short Introductions



  • A compact history of 300,000 years of military technology
  • Shows that technology is the primary driver of changes in warfare, and that military needs constantly generate technological innovation
  • Reveals the modern trend toward dual-use technologies, such as airplanes, radio, rockets, and computers, which have both military and civilian applications
  • Explains why technology has always favoured victory in warfare but has never guaranteed it

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 Short Introduction is ultimately an original account of human history seen through the kaleidoscopic lens of war technology.


List of illustrations

1. Introduction
2. Land warfare
3. Naval, air, space, and modern warfare
4. Technological change
Further reading


Alex Roland, Professor of History, Duke University
Alex Roland is Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University. He has written several books on military history and the history of technology, including Strategic Computing: DARPA and the Quest for Machine Intelligence, 1983-1993 and The Way of the Ship: America's Maritime History Reenvisioned, 1600-2000.

"There have been few things in history so closely allied and dependent on each other as war and technology. Though this may seem obvious in an age of nuclear capability and smart bombs, Alex Roland's fascinating book demonstrates that this was always so." - Catholic Herald