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Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine Paperback – 3 Sep 2001

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Paperback, 3 Sep 2001
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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (3 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571207456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571207459
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.8 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,064,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neal Ascherson once described me as a "wandering disestablished scholar whose method is to walk and talk". I may be better established nowadays, but I still feel some kinship with the metal detectorists whose world I briefly entered in A Journey Through Ruins. Like them, I work by picking up a signal in the present and then digging. I use libraries and personal testimony, and I've also benefited from journalistic commissions, which have enabled me to get to people and places that would otherwise be out of reach. More at

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Amazon Review

Patrick Wright specialises in taking a specific, seemingly narrow subject for scrutiny, and opening it out into a survey of much wider horizons and concerns. A previous work of his, The Village That Died For England, took as its theme the remote, deserted village of Tyneham, Dorset, on the south coast of England, and turned it into a symbol of the entire history of 20th-century Britain: a quite brilliant achievement. And Wright is every bit as unexpectedly illuminating, challenging and broad ranging in his latest study, of the tank. From its lumbering debut appearance in the first full-scale tank attack, at Cambrai on the Western Front in November 1917, to the unforgettable image of the lone protester with his plastic shopping bag, holding up an entire armoured column in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the tank has always inspired awe, pride, terror and even a kind of desperate, hysterical laughter. In its future incarnations, the tank will become the cybertank, if the dreams of the boys at the US Army Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky are ever realised: fully digitised, unmanned machines that will operate in a kind of virtual reality--except, of course, for the maimings and killings inflicted on human flesh, which will have a more old-fashioned kind of reality. Wright is acerbic, combative, powerfully perceptive about the tank as both machine and metaphor for the mechanisation of human life, and his long, hard look at this modern Behemoth, both fascinated and appalled, is utterly compelling. --Christopher Hart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


(Patrick Wright) remarkably, has succeeded in making his history of this monstrous war machine immensely readable -- Sunday Telegraph, 2 September 2001

Wright's book is unexpectedly fascinating... He is one of our best contemporary writers. -- Sunday Times, 2 September 2001

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'Behold now Behemoth, which I made with thee.' Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fenelon on 26 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
Readers expecting the typical "and then the PzKpfw Ausf. G replaced the Ausf. F in divisional service..." nuts and bolts military history will be deeply disappointed by this book.
Everyone else should enjoy it immensely.
Wright mixes the military, cultural and technical histories of the tank almost arbitrarily, pausing to concentrate on detail occasionally or sweeping over whole decades in half a chapter.
His central obsession is that of the tank as cultural icon - but to understand that he's gone back and explored the origins, uses and abuses of the armoured fighting vehicle, analysed its impact on popular culture, recounted the history of some of its triumphs and tragedies and introduced many of the significant personalities in its history.
Some chapters are plain bizarre - the section on JFC Fuller's relationship with the Great Beast Aleister Crowley is hilarious and deeply worrying - others tend towards straightforward military history or cultural criticism.
A heady mixture of genres, a deeply eccentric and readable book and one that I highly recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Morgan on 26 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
A serpentine, wayward work in cultural history this is undeniably a self-indulgent book which you will love or tolerate; it is not hateful, Wright is too devoted, too clever for that. The idea of the tank is followed from its development as a ponderous juggernaut and the sense of awe it engendered is well caught, as well as its importance as recruiting aid during War. Crowley and Fuller make a truly odd couple, soldier and semi lunatic in a bizarre union; the stuff of nightmares - or indeed comedy, as it IS rather Monty Python. Prodigiously researched, often funny, quite odd; the sort of thing Wright is liable to pull off. I am only surprised that no-one else has noted that it is rather square and bluntly solid, it is a crushing weight in heft and narrative.... in fact, is itself a tank. I enjoyed its huge self hugely.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Duducu on 7 May 2008
Format: Paperback
At its core Tank covers the history of the tank from the grindingly slow British vehicles of WW1 to the latest armoured units in Israeli mobile warfare.

There is in-depth discussion of improvements and epic moments such as Kursk. It even shows how the tank has seeped into popular culture and the first hand experiences describing their impact on the battle field is chilling.

The only problem (and it is a major one) is how often Patrick Wright gets hopelessly distracted. There is an entire section on JFC Fuller with Alistair Crowley- interesting but not very relevant and later on there's a very random section on the concept vehicle (a bit like a tank) for homeless people in America. This has nothing to do with the topic and is obviously a pipe dream. The final points aren't about the future of armoured vehicles in combat but about Mums in their large 4x4 vehicles!

The information you bought this book for is there, but at times it's like sifting for gold. This book needs MAJOR editing.

There's a great 300 page tale about the creation and evolution of the tank wrapped in this unnecessarily chunky book. A missed opportunity.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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