The pursuit of power : technology, armed force, and society since A.D. 1000

by William H. McNeill

Paperback, 1982




[Chicago] : University of Chicago Press, 1982.


In this book, a text that synthesizes military, technological, and social history, the author explores a millennium of human upheaval and traces the path by which we have arrived at the frightening dilemmas that confront us in the twentieth century. The author moves from the crossbow -- banned by the Church in 1139 as too lethal for Christians to use against one another -- to the nuclear missile, from the sociological consequences of drill in the seventeenth century to the emergence of the military-industrial complex in the twentieth. The author's central argument is that a commercial transformation of world society in the eleventh century caused military activity to respond increasingly to market forces as well as to the commands of rulers, with command economies of the twentieth century replacing the market control of large-scale human effort. This book does not solve the problems of the twentieth century, but its discoveries, hypotheses, and sheer breadth of learning do offer a perspective on twentieth century fears and, as the author hopes, 'a ground for wiser action'.--adapted from publisher description.… (more)


National Book Award (Finalist — 1983)



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