Synopses & Reviews
No less than the internal combustion engine, the transistor, or the silicon chip, barbed wire is the quintessentially modern creation, a product that has influenced the lives of millions of people across the globe since its invention in the late nineteenth century. In this far-ranging work of historical analysis, French historian Olivier Razac makes a major and unexpected addition to the list of technologies that have come to define the modern world, uncovering the hidden political history of barbed wire for the first time.
Cheap and mass-produced, barbed wire accomplished what no other product did before it, or has since done more effectively: the control of vast amounts of open space. As Razac shows, few other technologies did more to usher in the hallmarks of the modern era: the harnessing of nature, brutal mass warfare, political conquest and repression, and genocide.
In a narrative that spans the history of the American Frontier, the trenches of World War I, the Holocaust, and beyond, Barbed Wire looks unflinchingly at a central and fascinating thread of modern life.
Barbed Wire is illustrated with rare photographs from European and American archives.
"Razac's book ultimately succeeds because it manages to cast barbed wire in an entirely new light. By reminding us all that barbed wire has been used as a political force, Razac has made an old item new. No one who reads "Barbed Wire" will look at the stuff the same way again. And while this may be only a minor achievement other authors have done a better job bringing an old, overlooked item up to date it's still a task that deserves to be lauded." Damien Cave, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon review
"Barbed wire excludes and includes. Its function is always to magnify the difference between the inside and the outside, writes historian and philosopher Razac in his brief but startling study of an emblematic innovation....The simplicity and clarity of Razac's prose reinforces the enormous power and originality of his ideas, making this a vital work of cultural criticism." Publishers Weekly
"Razac writes with a cool precision that matches the sharp sting of his subject." — The Christian Science Monitor
"A fascinating read. . . . No one who reads Barbed Wire will look at this stuff the same way again." —Salon.com
"[Razac] proves himself the poet of barbed wire. . . . An important, accessible and even beautiful study of this deadly instrument. " —St. Petersburg Times
In a narrative that spans the history of the American frontier, the trenches of World War I, the Holocaust, and beyond, "Barbed Wire" looks unflinchingly at a central and fascinating thread of modern life. Rare photos.
About the Author
Olivier Razac lives in Lyon, France. A philosopher by training, he is completing a doctoral dissertation on The Genealogy of Biopower.