Supply, Demand and Assimilation in Chemical-Warfare Armament

  • J. P. Perry Robinson


Armament for what we would nowadays recognise as chemical warfare (CW) was under study in several countries prior to 1914, among them Britain, Germany and Japan. This early research appears to have been a low-key affair, driven more by the general growth of industrial chemistry than by perceptions of military need; and such weapons as were designed aroused little military interest. Chemical warfare was still where it had been for centuries: a technique of fighting far too demanding in its requirements for special supplies and special skills to be useful for anything other than special purposes. Yet within five years, under the stimulus of the Great War and its attendant mobilisation of the scientific community in support of the military, CW had moved rapidly away from the outer margins of military theory and practice, closer to the mainstream. By mid-1918 a million people had become casualties of CW armament, and there were artillery units on both sides of the Western Front that were firing as much poison-gas shell as high explosive. CW weapons were starting to become what are today called ‘conventional’. They were being integrated into the prevailing doctrine, organisation and day-to-day routines of armed forces. They were now, in other words, firmly caught up in that process of ‘assimilation’ which is discernible in the history of most technologies, civil as well as military.


High Explosive Chemical Weapon Biological Weapon Biological Warfare Military Interest 
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Copyright information

© Hans Günter Brauch 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. P. Perry Robinson

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