Short History of Biological Warfare: From Pre-History to the 21st Century   [open pdf - 710KB]

"This short monograph reviews the history of biological warfare (BW) from prehistory to the present. It covers what we know about the practice of BW and briefly describes the programs that developed BW weapons based on the best available research. […] This survey breaks the history of BW into three periods. The first section examines prehistory to 1900--the period before scientific advances proved that microorganisms were the cause of many diseases. Despite many claims to the contrary, resort to BW was exceedingly rare during this era. Readers interested only in BW's modern history can skip this section. The second section looks at the years from 1900 through 1945. This period saw the emergence of state BW programs, the employment of biological weapons in both world wars, and the use of biological agents by nonstate actors, including criminals. This period witnessed the most significant resort to BW. It included the first organized state campaign to wage BW--sabotage operations organized by the German government during World War I. It also saw the most extensive use--the Japanese attacks in China. Almost all the known victims of BW were Chinese, mostly civilians, who were killed in these operations. This period also saw the initial efforts to control BW in the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which essentially prohibited the first use of BW agents. Finally, the third section, covering the period from 1945 to the present, focuses mostly on developments during the Cold War, including descriptions of state BW programs as well as known uses of biological agents by states, terrorists, and criminals."

Report Number:
Occasional Paper 12
National Defense University Press, Washington, D.C. August 2017
Retrieved From:
National Defense University Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction: http://wmdcenter.ndu.edu/
Media Type:
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