Transport, Communications and the Changing Nature of Land Warfare, 1792-1945

Graham Goodland assesses the impact of developments in non-military technology on the conduct of war in the modern era.

In the western world, the period between the French Revolutionary conflicts and the two world wars witnessed a technological revolution on an unprecedented scale. The onset of industrialisation transformed the battlefield by making available new and more powerful weaponry, capable of being manufactured in increasing quantities. The focus of this article, however, is the application to warfare of technical innovations that were originally conceived for civilian use. The development of steam locomotive power in the early nineteenth century, and the internal combustion engine towards the end of the century, created wholly new possibilities for the movement of troops and supplies. On the eve of the First World War, a further dimension was opened up as heavier than air flight became a reality. These advances were of huge importance for armies which, for hundreds of years, had relied almost entirely on the horse for transport. In the field of communications, the period saw a progression from signalling by flags, lights and semaphore, through the introduction of the electric telegraph in the 1840s, to the telephone and radio by the early twentieth century. 

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