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

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Overview

While cultural and scholarly traditions have led us to believe that war and control of nature are separate, there are many more similarities than most people might suspect. Tracing the history of chemical warfare and pest control, Edmund Russell shows how war and control of nature coevolved. Ideologically, institutionally, and technologically, the paths of chemical warfare and pest control intersected repeatedly in the twentieth century. War and Nature helps us to understand the impact of war on nature and vice versa, as well as the development of total war, and the rise of the modern environmental movement. Edmund Russell is an assistant professor in the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. This is his first book.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...this fine study is a welcome addition to American environmental, military, and scientific historical scholarship and deserves a wide readership." American Historical Review

"Well written and readable, and the author's theories are well supported." Military Review

"War and Nature does an excellent job of weaving together research on chemical use against human and insect enemies of the United States from World War I to the present. The author did a thorough job in doing research for his doctoral dissertation, and has presented it in a very readable fashion. The footnotes and index to this work are quite thorough and useful...In all this is an interesting presentation of material that documents one aspect of the military industrial complex that has become an integral part of our lives. Highly recommended for students of history, business, and the environment." E-Streams

"Edmund Russell's fascinating and provocative study explores several seemingly disparate historical realities - U.S. military strategy and propaganda during World Wars I and II, the rhetoric of the Cold War, and post-1945 insecticide research and advertising - to show the subtle connections among them. This brilliany and original book brings together important strands of twentieth-century American history in fresh and disturbing ways." Paul Boyer, Washburn Observatory

"Russell admirably achieves his purpose, reinforcing his case with careful scholarship." Military History

"This topical, judicious book will appeal to environmentalists, academics, and sophisticated lay readers." Publisher's Weekly

"An interesting and highly unusual comparison of the parallel--but sometimes intersecting--chemical wars waged against humans and bugs...For students of both war and ecology, this is a remarkable and fascinating study that draws heavily on primary sources; it is particularly timely as awareness grows of what war does to the environment, as well as to people." Eliot A. Cohen, Foreign Affairs

"[A] careful, factual, well-documented examination of the scientific and rhetorical intersection of chemical warfare and pest control. The possibility of this coverage would never have occurred to me, or I suspect to most people, but Russell shows, in convincing detail, how it exists and operates." Washington Post Book World

"Edmund Russell's fascinating and provocative study explores several seemingly disparate historical realities - U.S. military strategy and propaganda during World Wars I and II, the rhetoric of the Cold War, and post-1945 insecticide research and advertising - to show the subtle connections among them. This brilliant and original book brings together important strands of twentieth-century American history in fresh and disturbing ways." Paul Boyer, Washburn Observatory

"Elegant in its simplicity." Journal of the History of Medicine

Kirkus Reviews
An engrossing, unusual social narrative, documenting the close ties between chemical weapons development and"peaceful" applications in insect warfare. Russell's debut views the predominantly military history of the world wars and the Cold War as a metaphor for similarly volatile technological developments in the private sector. He explores how, despite the horror of indiscriminate gas warfare promulgated by all sides in WWI (here termed"The Chemists' War"), a clique of ambitious scientists and soldiers in the Chemical Warfare Service created an advocacy culture that portrayed the frightening new technology as safer and more humane than the era's gruesome trench-war stalemates. Such"gas boosterism" was checked by Depression-era public hostility towards the"merchants of death," and by FDR's horror of chemical warfare, evident in his"no-first-use" policy. This altered the service's priorities, towards development of incendiary devices such as napalm, flame throwers, and cluster bombs; ironically, this shift made Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities especially devastating, much more so than gas warfare would have been. The most ingenious element of Russell's approach may be seen in his even-handed exploration of how chemical warfare science influenced the civilian pest-eradication industry. He unearths startling cultural histories, such as how the military need to combat typhus and malaria fed the American enthusiasm for DDT, how the imagery and language of insect extermination fused with conceptions of"total war" to inure soldiers to massive killing (particularly regarding the Japanese), and how postwar science exploited Nazi development of organophosphates (powerfulinsecticidesrelated to nerve gasses) for great profits and terrifying new weapons. He concludes by addressing the Cold War–era unease epitomized by Eisenhower's warnings about the"military-industrial complex" and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), seeing both as warnings that an"elite class [had] lost sight of what they were ostensibly trying to protect" through endorsement of chemical warfare's many forms. A lively work on a somewhat arcane topic, and an important prehistory of our environmentally conscious, biologically threatened era.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

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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