In this provocative book, Robert O'Connell examines the role and significance of weapons from the dawn of human history to the present, and the attempts of western civilization to come to terms with the grim results of its own inventiveness. This is not simply a history of the technology of weapons. It integrates the evolution of human society with the development of weapons and strategy into a single, coherent story. While primarily historical in his approach,
O'Connell also draws upon anthropology, sociology, biology, and literature in his effort to explain certain recurring phenomena of warfare: the human need to dehumanize the enemy; arms races involving weapons which have developed beyond the point of utility; or the ideal of heroism rendered obsolete by
deadly new technologies.