Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring

  • Unusually synthetic; weaves discussion of ideas, technology, nature, and warfare to create a unified narrative
  • Clearly written; although a scholarly book, it is accessible to a general audience
  • Timely; chemical weapons and pesticides reappear regularly in the headlines

Series: Studies in Environment and History

By: Edmund Russell(Author)

315 pages, 15 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Jul 2001 | #116266 | ISBN: 0521799376
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £21.99 $29/€25 approx
Hardback | Jul 2001 | #116265 | ISBN: 0521790034
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £71.99 $94/€82 approx

About this book

War and Nature combines discussion of technology, nature, and warfare to explain the impact of war on nature and vice versa. While cultural and scholarly traditions have led us to think of war and control of nature as separate, this 2001 book uses the history of chemical warfare and pest control as a case study to show that war and control of nature coevolved. Ideologically, institutionally, and technologically, the paths of chemical warfare and pest control intersected repeatedly in the twentieth century. These intersections help us understand the development of total war and the rise of the modern environmental movement.

"An engrossing, unusual social narrative, documenting the close ties between chemical weapons development and 'peaceful' applications in insect warfare."
- Kirkus

"[...] ample fodder for a thought-provoking and eminently readable book. [...] a thought-provoking and eminently readable book. A sequel might be where much of it went wrong.'"
- Alastair Hay, Nature

"Russell's narrative prose is as engaging as it is informative [...] War and Nature will be of valuable source for historians and others seeking a broad cultural history of these specific aspects of chemical research in the twentieth century [...]"
- Ambix 50

"[...] the book breaks new ground in its connection of two traditionally disparate fields of inquiry, environmental and military history. It should be required reading in college courses in both security studies and environmental science."
- History


1. Introduction
2. The long reach of war (1914–17)
3. Joining the chemists' war (1917–18)
4. Chemical warfare in peace (1918–37)
5. Minutemen in peace (1918–37)
6. Total war (1936–43)
7. Annihilation (1943–5)
8. Planning for peace and war (1944–5)
9. War comes home (1945–50)
10. Arms races in the Cold War (1950–8)
11. Backfires (1958–63)
12. Epilogue

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Edmund Russell is the Hall Distinguished Professor of US History at the University of Kansas. He works primarily in environmental history and the history of technology. He is the author of Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and co-editor, with Richard Tucker, of Natural Enemy, Natural Ally: Toward an Environmental History of War (2004). Russell's work has won the Edelstein Prize of the Society for the History of Technology, the Rachel Carson Prize, and the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forum for the History of Science in America.

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