Book review: Weapons of War


“Weapons of War” is a highly under-rated book, as coffee table-style books tend to be. “Weapons of War” was one of my first books – I bought it for R7.95 excluding GST around 1981 – but sadly never read it until recently.

The pictures sufficed for many years and, in any case, it was not a book I planned to take seriously, as, for example a biography of Guderian or Rommel. That was a mistake. Published in 1980, the text remains lucid, informative and easy to read 30 years later.
“Weapons of War” is a great general introduction to warfare through the ages – rather than strictly weapons as the title suggests, the first being necessary to achieve the second. “… the evolution of weapons proceeded without any noticeable interruption throughout both ancient and medieval periods,” the authors write in the opening paragraphs of the first chapter. “Significant change was delayed until the introduction of efficient gunpowder artillery and firearms, and lastly the rig bayonet, in the seventeenth century. A Macedonian phalanx of the fourth century BC would have been a match for such ‘modern’ troops as Cromwell’s Ironsides or the Spanish pikemen at Rocroi. Marlborough’s army at Blenheim in 1704 would have been a totally different proposition.
“The weapons of ancient war had one very obvious but nevertheless remarkable characteristic. They possessed little or none of the built-in obsolescence dogging nearly every modern ‘weapon system’. A modern battle tank, for instance, can easily be out of date by the time it actually enters service, and if it runs out of fuel and ammunition in the wrong place at the wrong time it rapidly becomes and expensive and highly vulnerable piece of junk. Spears and swords possessed a permanent efficiency which no modern weapon can hope to match. They could be used again and again until they broke.”

Insight galore and plenty of pretty pictures too. A must for every library.

Weapons of War

Chris Cook & John Stevenson


183 pages. Illustrated, index. Hardcover, A4-size