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Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War Paperback – 13 May 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; Reprint of 2009 edition (13 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199733538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199733538
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 875,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Highly informative...Lockwood certainly succeeds in making a specialised academic subject fascinating. (Nicholas Lezard, Saturday Guardian)

Compelling. (Simon Schama, Financial Times)

Lockwood's approach is fresh. (PD Smith, The Guardian)

The book is an excellent read. (Michelle Harvey, Times Higher Education Supplement)

About the Author

Jeffrey A. Lockwood is Professor of Natural Sciences & Humanities at the University of Wyoming, where he teaches in the department of philosophy and in the M.F.A. program in creative writing. His work has been included in the popular anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he is winner of both a Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Award. He is the author of Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving and Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Replete with all the suspense and intrigue found in the best spy novels of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, Jeffrey A. Lockwood's "Six - Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War" is not just a gripping, exceptional account of humanity's usage of insects as military and economic weapons of war from antiquity to the present. It is quite possibly, the definitive exploration of this very subject, and one that deserves as wide a readership as possible, for rather obvious reasons. Trained as a biologist with substantial expertise in ecology and epidemiology, Lockwood combines these gifts, along with a sound understanding of history and his exceptional writing, in weaving together a most beguiling narrative that reads more like a Cold War spy thriller than a superb piece of nonfiction. In this rather timely book, Lockwood makes a most compelling case explaining how and why insect usage in warfare has often changed the course of not only battles, but indeed, entire campaigns, citing as notable examples, the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia, and more recently, Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, the American Civil War and the Western Front during World War I.

Among the most compelling chapters in Lockwood's book are those devoted to the infamous Japanese general Ishii Shiro and his Unit 731, based in Japanese-occupied Manchuria (Northeastern China) during World War II, and responsible for countless crimes against humanity against both Chinese civilians and military prisoners of war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Is this book a sober history of insects and warfare since classical times to the present day, or a conspiracy theory, a paranoid fantasy, a small boy's adventure or a grant application to Homeland Security? Lockwood's not fussy whether his subjects have six, eight or no legs at all, so maybe the answer is "all of the above". It makes for a book which is entertaining but varies wildly in tone.

Bugs have been on battlefields since men had battles. As the scientific revolution developed protective measures improved. Humans being only human, scientists started to wonder whether, given that disease generally causes more casualties than conflict, the diseases could be targeted at the enemy via their natural vectors, insects.

The buzz I get from this book (sorry, Lockwood's gruesome puns are catching) is probably the reverse of the author's intention. Despite the huge investment by Japan and the US there is scant evidence that vector borne disease can be efficiently targeted, delivered and have lethally precise effects much better than dumb luck. And the possibilities for defence (releasing sterile male mosquitos in case of yellow fever attack, for example) are far more promising than the potential for offence.

Put yourself in the sandals of a village chief in Swat or Somalia. However fervently you pray for the victory of the terrorists, would you really help Al-Quaeda develop a bio-terrorism lab in your back yard? Thought not.

Vigilance for the threats described in this book is probably warranted. Getting phobic about it is not. For a less hectic history on the same subject you might try the classic Rats, Lice and History (Penguin Classic History)
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Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is enough to catch any student of military tactics attention. The author claims not to be a historian and his writing bears this out. The book is easy to read and flows. But all the information comes from secondary sources and over one-third of the book seems to take conspiracy theories devoted to accusations that the United States has allegedly used this form of warfare. Even though as the author even admits you cannot control the movement of insects and they cannot tell friend from foe. Yet Mr. Lockwood makes a good case for the potential danger and havoc that insects pose to every country.

The beginning chapters start off with some credibility of when he writes about the use of insects being used by various units throughout antiquity. Even the brilliant tactical use of pathogens without knowledge of how they were actually transmitted like malaria to debilitate and army by maneuvering them into stagnant swampy areas where they thought the bad air (instead of the mosquito we know are responsible) would all the enemy to contract the disease. And the various peoples who used insect toxins on arrows to make their weapons more lethal. And then of course he retells the infamous story of Nasrullah Bahadur-Shah, the Emir of Bukhara in Central Asia, who used assassin bugs and sheep ticks to torture his enemies in the black pit; a pit that makes me shudder as I read about it. The author is attentive to the affect that disease had on the world and military history and how a small attack could spread to cause unexpected consequences.

If his writing would have continued in this vein the book would have been considerably better. Perhaps if he had collaborated with an historian this would have been a truly classic book.
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