sitemap | help
Click here to access to our stories featuring images from our collections and related materials ranging from Unusual takes, voices to biographies and more. Click here to find a feature debate and other debates related to some of our subjects and topics found with the READ section, please note, you need to be a registered user to participate in debates Click here to browse or search for images and related materials.  Alternatively use the advanced search for more detailed queries. Click here to create your own web galleries using our image collections or to personalise your experience within Ingenious.  Please note that you need to be a registered user to work with the CREATE tools.  Go to the 'Register' link to utilise Ingenious Create Tools Menu Log in Menu Search
Spacer image
Spacer image
save to my links [ + ]read caption
Topic section: Do inventions and war go hand-in-hand?
TOPIC SECTION:
Do inventions and war go hand-in-hand?
Christopher Freeman, a British economist with an interest in technological innovation, has argued that the timing of new technologies is
Picture: 03_10411981.jpg
Balloons were used in the American Civil War, but were particularly associated with the siege of Paris in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 a consequence of long economic cycles called Kondratiev waves (named after the Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratiev who was executed during Stalin’s purges). These economic ‘waves’ are of about 45 to 60 years’ duration. Whether we accept the concept of long waves or not, it is undeniable that there have been marked spurts of innovation in the last 250 years

Governments often use rearmament as a way of getting out of recessions

 which can be called ‘industrial revolutions’. Each of these bursts of innovation began in a recession and was followed by a boom. More interestingly from our point of view, they were also followed by wars. The Industrial Revolution was followed by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the so-called Second Industrial Revolution by the Crimean War and then the Franco-Prussian War, and the third Kondratiev wave by the First World War. The Second World War began a bit too soon for the fourth wave (although it clearly took advantage of the initial innovations of that wave) and should probably be considered the second half of the third-wave war, much as the Franco-Prussian War followed on from the Crimean War and the Austro-Prussian War. This suggests that the real fourth wave war was the Cold War, which accelerated existing technologies in much the same way as conventional wars.

If this correlation is valid, why do wars break out during the initial boom of the Kondratiev cycle? Recessions are a common link between innovation and war. Governments often use rearmament as a way of getting out of recessions. Recessions also come to an end when innovations promote production and improve productivity. There is also a psychological element – countries with a strong record
Picture: 03_10307586.jpg
The cavity magnetron was developed for radar use in 1940, but now forms the power source of the domestic microwave oven.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 of innovation become more confident about taking on other countries who are lagging (or appear to be lagging) in the technological race. This confidence is rarely tied to a particular advance, but to a more general belief in technological superiority.

Even if the hard evidence for Kondratiev waves is weak, and it is easy to manipulate dates to fit a preconceived notion, it can still be argued that innovations and military build-ups tend to occur during recessions, and the subsequent wars push the expansion of these innovations more quickly than peacetime conditions. A ‘real’ war is not always needed; a surrogate, such as the Cold War, the Space Race or perhaps even a ‘war on terrorism’ can work just as well. Is this a necessary state of affairs or can we find less destructive ways of promoting new technology?

 
 
Spacer image

Spacer image
Topic section: Is war the mother of invention?
Spacer image
Some inventions, such as the bouncing bomb or napalm, are genuine wartime inventions, but many military breakthroughs, including tanks and radar, were already being developed before war broke out. Is war the mother of invention or a hothouse for innovations?  > more

Spacer image
Topic section: Is invention the mother of war?
Spacer image
Can inventions persuade countries to embark on a war? Did the Haber-Bosch process for synthetic ammonia trigger the First World War? Many technologies have been developed with war in mind, but how far have these inventions influenced the war planners?  > more
 
Click here to print this page in a printer friendly format  > Printer friendly version > Back to top
© NMSI. All rights reserved. | terms of use | sitemap | contact us | accessibility | privacy | who we are
Spacer image
Spacer image
Read More
Please click here to explore this topic further and to access our our stories featuring images from our collections and related materials ranging from Unusual takes, voices to biographies and more.
If your browser is not javascript enabled then click here to Read More. To learn how to javascript enable your browser click here.
  right arrow Voices - of people involved
  right arrow Unusual Takes - the unexpected angle


See caption
Click here to see images related to this section
Related to: