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Martin Miller
Author, Illustrator
Triumph and Tragedy: The Evolution and Legacy of 20th Century War Machines

Adult; History & Military; (Market)

Triumph and Tragedy is the keystone volume in a trilogy of books on twentieth century weapons of war. Previous volumes are The Neutron’s Long Shadow: Legacies of Nuclear Explosives Production in the Manhattan Project (February 2017) and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Specters of the Nuclear Age (December 2017). This last book in the series traces the course of the scientific, industrial, and cultural revolutions that paved the way for the unprecedented violence of 20th century wars and highlights the key personalities that made it all possible. It then recounts in words and rare historical images the development of the weapons and political movements responsible for the appalling carnage throughout humanity’s most lethal century. The weapons themselves, the tanks, artillery, warplanes, and warships that enabled such slaughter are shown in brooding, high-resolution detail in a gallery chapter with over a hundred of the author’s award-winning photographs.

As its title suggests, Miller’s blunt, gorgeous photographic history of twentieth century war machines surveys is as pained as it is impressive, as its parade of mighty tanks, planes, cannons, and more—all shot by the author in vivid black and white–stirs both awe at humanity’s power to create and disquiet at its zeal to destroy. “In studying this long sweep of history, one cannot help but be struck by the extreme spasms of violence and destruction that occurred in the twentieth century,” Miller notes, before considering, in several persuasive text chapters, the forces that brought about this era of “unprecedented calamity”: mass production, improved mass transit, crucial cultural and scientific developments, and, fascinatingly, the improvements in public health that allowed populations to surge.

The third book in a trilogy on twentieth century war weapons (after The Neutron's Long Shadow and Weapons of Mass Destruction), Triumph and Tragedy lays out a clear, compelling history of the development of war technology, with welcome attention paid to the political, economic, and cultural currents powering a series of international arms races before, during, and after the World Wars. Miller appreciates that war machines aren’t produced in a vacuum, and his attention to sneaky business like the self-serving relationship between Bethlehem Steel and the secretary of the U.S. Navy during the Cleveland administration is welcome and clarifying, as is his depiction of the deployment of these weapons by often reckless actors working from perceived national interests.

Miller supplements this rich material with accounts of the changing nature of war, often with telling quotes from the people who lived and died in the shadows of these machines. The star, though, is Miller’s photography, plus a host of well-selected archival images and documents. He offers a succession of marvelous photos, often beautiful and barbarous at once, the killing machines looming and unmanned, the gray bolts, treads and gun barrels mute testament to our ingenuity–and appetite for power

Takeaway: This beautiful, outraged photographic survey of twentieth century war machines will dazzle and challenge fans of military history.

Great for fans of: Weapons & Warfare of the 20th Century, David Edgerton’s Britain's War Machine.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

David R Woodward, Emeritus Professor of History, Marshall University, and author

Impressively illustrated and well written examination of the dramatic evolution of conventional weapons during the first half of the twentieth century.  Highly recommended.

Paul Cornish, author of Machine guns and the Great War

Supported by a text that sets them in their technological context, these stark and powerful images reveal the immense economic and industrial effort that lay behind the unprecedented violence of the twentieth century.


Silver Prize Winner in Documentary Book Category 
—2022 PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris
Bronze Medal Winner Documentary Book Category
―2022 Budapest International Foto Awards
Bronze Medal in Oversized History Book Category 
—2022 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards
Bronze Medal in Non-Fiction Book Series Category (with The Neutron's Long Shadow and Weapons of Mass Destruction)
—2022 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards
Silver Prize Winner in Documentary Photography Book Category
—2021 Tokyo International Foto Awards