Chapter 7

Technology and War


The interplay of military institutions and changing technology has regularly made history. Military institutions, like other social institutions, organize major areas of values, attitudes and interests in the service of critical social needs. Unlike most social institutions, however, military institutions appear only in state or near-state societies. Armies were closely linked with the origin of civilization, may in fact have been a necessary, if not sufficient, cause for the transition to state organization and civilized life. Cause or not, military institutions remain very close to the core of complex societies. Throughout history, military technological innovation has led through military reorganization to significant societal change. By the same token, social change has regularly reshaped technology. Fundamental shifts in military technology and institutions may well serve as useful benchmarks for organizing a study of general history that addresses deeper structures of stability and change in addition to more superficial patterns of event and personality.

Through most of the Neolithic era, archeology provides few hints of armed forces or organized warfare anywhere in Eurasia. Neolithic sites rarely show signs of fortification, although walls became the hallmark of the cities that define civilization. Specialized weapons likewise seem to have been unknown. The first distinct weapon technology emerged with metallurgy in the transit to ...

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