When the first tanks lumbered onto the battlefields of the Western Front in 1916, they created an enduring myth and tapped into deep currents in the 20th-century mind: into ideas of unstoppable progress and of technological futurism. The tank, always more than the sum of its mechanical parts, is a social and cultural object, partly mythical, a curious compound of fact and fantasy, surrounded by legend. Going beyond military history, this book examines the tank's development as a 20th-century icon. In some ways it was a product of the artistic imagination (it was prefigured in the work of Leonardo da Vinci and H.G. Wells), and part of its effectiveness as a weapon is its mesmerizing visual impact. It has been a component of many enduring 20th-century images: the Blitzkrieg, the Polish cavalry charge, the Desert War, Tiananmen Square and, in Operation Desert Storm, the harbinger of a new, computer-age warfare of simulators and virtual-reality systems.
The book's content encompasses discussion of the tank photo-opportunity (as used by Lenin, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush), women in tanks, and the curious case of the tank in Turkey which, by way of punishment for mechanical failure, was made to stand under guard on a hillside.
'Wonderful - witty, illuminating and astute. Not just a military history, this book is a tour de force, a cultural history of our dreams and delusions.' Simon Schama; 'An immensely readable, well-researched book, filled with interesting detours, unusual stories and idiosyncratic discussions relating the tank to philosophy, religion, art politics and even necromancy... A highly useful source of amusing and iconoclastic material with which to challenge orthodox military thinking.' General Sir Michael Rose, The Times