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Distributed for Reaktion Books

A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons

Following the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letters that appeared in their wake, the threat posed by the widespread accessibility of chemical and biological weapons has continually been used to stir public fear and opinion by politicians and the media alike. In Chemical and Biological Weapons, Edward M. Spiers cuts through the scare tactics and hype to provide a thorough and even-handed examination of the weapons themselves—the various types and effects—and their evolution from World War I to the present.

            Spiers describes the similarities and differences between the two types of weapons and how technological advancements have led to tactical innovations in their use over time. As well, he gives equal attention to the international response to the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, analyzing global efforts aimed at restraining their use, such as deterrence and disarmament, and the effectiveness of these approaches in the twentieth century. Using Iraq as a case study, Spiers also investigates its deployment of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War and the attempts by the international community to disarm Iraq through the United Nations Special Commission and the United States-led war in 2003.

A timely and balanced historical survey, Chemical and Biological Weapons will be of interest to readers studying the proliferation and use of chemical and biological warfare and the reactions of the international community throughout the last several decades.

223 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 | © 2010

History: History of Technology

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"This concise work, with its extensive references and bibliography, will be of interest to all students and professionals in the fields of history, political science, public policy, toxicology, and chemical technology. Recommended."

R.E. Buntrock | Choice

“A succinct and readily accessible account of the history and key issues associated with chemical and biological weapons from World War I to the present. . . . An excellent overview of an often underappreciated segment of 20th- and 21st-century security studies. . . . It deserves the thoughtful attention of both students and professionals.”

Military Review

“A comprehensive overview of the development, future, and implications of biological and chemical weapons. Spiers’s book traces the origins of chemical and biological warfare from their ancient beginnings to the first major use of gas in 1915 in World War I, to more recent uses and suspicions of use.”

Arms Control

Table of Contents


1   The Legacy of Gas Warfare in the First World War
2   Deterrence and Disarmament: Responses to Chemical 
     and Biological Warfare, 1919–93
3   Chemical Warfare in Third World Conflicts
4   The Proliferation of Chemical and Biological Weapons
5   Iraq’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Programmes
6   Chemical and Biological Terrorism
Conclusion: The Evolving Nature of Chemical and Biological Warfare

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