Not without reason, though often without much reflection, historians of the modern world have been fascinated by our capacity to kill each other by launching projectiles and blowing things up. The story of exploding devices has certainly been a thrilling one for those who believe that this particular means of destruction has been the motivating force of history since the Middle Ages. In many accounts, there is a near inevitability to the story of how all this came about, with the arrow pointing towards the triumph of the West.
It took the invention of atomic weapons in the Second World War to focus scholarly minds on just where explosive arms came from, how they have succeeded in altering the boundaries of the world in which we live, and at what cost this has been achieved. In 1955 the historian