Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Barbed Wire

A book about barbed wire sounds pretty boring, but it's not really about wire, but about people. People have sought to control their environments, and the invention and spread of barbed wire resulted in unmatched control over animals and other humans. Barbed Wire: An Ecology of Modernity is a history book about how people came to control environments they never could before.

American cowboys needed to get cattle up to big-city butchers at one time (before refrigeration allowed the "butching" to take place closer to farms), but the issue of keeping cows from grazing on the land of others was a big problem for neighbours. The English needed to flush out terrorists following the conclusion of the Boer War. Stalinists and Nazis needed to keep their enemies penned to "execute" their plans. All of these would not have been so easily done without the invention of barbed wire, and its proliferation thanks to scale economies resulting from high demand.

The stories are interesting, though some parts were a bit dry. A fascinating book for students of history.


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