Cover image for Soul of the sword : an illustrated history of weaponry and warfare from prehistory to the present
Soul of the sword : an illustrated history of weaponry and warfare from prehistory to the present
O'Connell, Robert L.
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Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Free Press : Distributed by Simon & Schuster, [2002]

Physical Description:
390 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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U800 .O38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
U800 .O38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
U800 .O38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
U800 .O38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A sweeping history of weapons -- their origins and impact on warfare and society -- from prehistory to the present, including

"The Halberd"

In the 13th century, Swiss confederates relied on lightweight breastplates, halberd lances, and a democratic style of phalanx warfare that succeeded by agility and speed but ultimately failed against powerful cannons and firearms.

"The First Hand Cannon"

In the 15th century in France and the Low Countries, arms makers first shrunk down cannons by using bronze, allowing for new mobility. Hand cannons were transported on two-wheeled horsedrawn carriages and could be positioned and fired within minutes. No fortified city in Europe was immune to the threat.

"The WheeL Lock Pistol"

In one of the serendipitous technological borrowings that helped the West dominate in gun development, arms and clock-makers in Germany in the 16th century developed a new firing mechanism, using a serrated wheel to strike iron pyrite. When the fuse was eliminated, guns could suddenly be carried, shot, and reloaded by fast-moving cavalry.

"The Pariskanone"

First fired by Germany in March 1918, th

Author Notes

Robert L. O'Connell has worked as a senior analyst at the National Ground Intelligence Center and as a contributing editor to MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History. He is the author of several nonfiction books including Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression; Sacred Vessels: The Cult of the Battleship and the Rise of the U.S. Navy; Ride of the Second Horseman: The Birth and Death of War; Soul of the Sword: An Illustrated History of Weaponry and Warfare from Prehistory to the Present; and Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman. He also wrote the novel Fast Eddie.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A foremost popular military historian and professional defense analyst here joins forces with a foremost military illustrator, John Batchelor, to produce a superior addition to library military collections. O'Connell's text traces not only the technology of weapons, from the flint hand ax to the atomic bomb and the precision-guided munition, but also the cultural influences bearing on the discovery, development, tactical and strategic use, and often overly long retention of a variety of weapons. He tends to support the thesis seasoned military readers already may have reached, that no weapon is as effective as it is expected to be, except for those that are more so. Provided with a bibliography that is up to the high standards of the text, the book is fully accessible to neophyte military buffs yet also contains valuable information and even tactical surprises for seasoned veterans. Certainly one of the most valuable volumes, if not the most valuable volume, of military history thus far this year. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

This history of the implements of war by a contributing editor to MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History stands to satisfy the armchair historian and the sedentary strategist alike. Not only does O'Connell (Of Arms and Men) introduce such hardware as pachyderm armor, and then go on to describe the use of elephants as a kind of proto-Panzer division in early warfare, he dissects the utility of the practice as well. (Elephants, it turned out, were dangerously unpredictable in combat and panicked easily.) In this way, he demonstrates how each weapon, whether spear or flamethrower or firearm, leads to another weapon, how each action results in a re-action and how the evolution of war continues to spiral towards weaponry of ever-greater mass destruction. The tome is peppered with interesting illustrations, though not nearly enough of them, and the author manages a pleasingly measured tone throughout. Overall, O'Connell offers an erudite but accessible history of weapons and their employ. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Noted military historian O'Connell follows up his quirky monograph on the evolution of war (Of Arms and Men) with this fascinating history of weapons. From the use of a sharpened stick by prehistoric humans to today's warfare by virus, O'Connell succinctly traces the vast history of weapons and in the process explains how major conflicts and strategies have been affected by weaponry. Chapters cover everything from the arrival of weapons in the agricultural age, the impact of horses on warfare, and the age of steam to the rapid advancement of weaponry in World Wars I and II, weapons of mass destruction developed during the Cold War, and the latest stage of high-tech weaponry, while extensive sidebars focus on specific advances in weaponry. Throughout, O'Connell's captivating writing is surprisingly witty, given the serious nature of the subject. This book complements O'Connell's earlier works on the history of warfare, provides the narrative supplement to Edwin Tunis's Weapons: A Pictorial History, and makes this subject more approachable than Geoffrey Parker's The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare. Highly recommended for all academic military history collections and larger public libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1. A Most Ancient Talismanp. 1
2. War's Arrivalp. 17
3. History Poised on the Tip of a Spearp. 29
4. Ghost Ridersp. 45
5. Imperial Treadmillp. 67
6. At Seap. 93
7. Tubes of Firep. 111
8. Guns Awayp. 137
9. Gun Controlp. 157
10. Death Machinesp. 181
11. Steaming Through Troubled Watersp. 207
12. False Pinnaclep. 235
13. Accidental Armageddonp. 249
14. Grudge Matchp. 285
15. Cold War--Inferno of Armsp. 323
Epiloguep. 359
Notesp. 361
Selected Bibliographyp. 367
Indexp. 379