War elephants and early tanks : a transepochal comparison of ancient and modern warfare

Searle, DA ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3311-4090 2018, 'War elephants and early tanks : a transepochal comparison of ancient and modern warfare' , Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift, 77 (1) , pp. 37-77.

PDF - Accepted Version
Download (790kB) | Preview


Although scholars have in the past dismissed the claim that war elephants were the »tanks of the ancient world«, a closer examination of the similarities between the two weapons reveals some remarkable parallels. In fact, a comparison shows that many of the counter-measures in anti-elephant warfare in antiquity had parallels in anti-tank warfare in the Great War. More importantly, the upward spiral of increased weapon power, followed by defensive countermeasures, then an increase in the protective armour added to the "weapons system", is a process which can be observed in the evolution of both war elephants and early tanks. The comparison raises questions about the dominant narrative in the history of the tank, largely instigated by J. F. C. Fuller, namely, that its invention represented a revolution in the history of warfare since it spelled the transition from animal and human muscular power to machine power. This article seeks to explain why Fuller always avoided drawing comparisons between war elephants and tanks; and, it argues that specific types of military phenomena can be identified which recur in different historical epochs.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift
Publisher: Oldenbourg
ISSN: 2193-2336
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Professor DA Searle
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2017 10:46
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 22:25
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/43715

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year