This intriguing study examines Western perceptions of war in and beyond the nineteenth century, surveying the writings of novelists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, poets, natural scientists, and journalists to trace the terms of modern thought on the nature of military conflict. Daniel Pick brings together philosophical and historical models of war with fictions of invasion, propaganda from the Great War, interpretations of shellshock and speculations about the biological value of conquest. He discusses the work of such familiar commentators as Clausewitz, Engels, and Treitschke, and examines little-known writings by Proudhon, De Quincey, Ruskin, Valery, and many others, culminating in the extraordinary dialogue between Freud and Einstein, Why War? He analyses Victorian fears of French contamination through the Channel Tunnel as well as the widespread continuing dread of German domination. And he charts the history of the pervasive European belief that war is beneficial or at least functionally necessary. A central theme of the book is the disturbing relationship between machinery and destruction. Visions of relentless technological 'progress' and the inexorable advance of the military-industrial complex often seem to distort our understanding of war, even to reduce it to a sophisticated game played out by high-precision automata. Pick explores both the reassuring and troubling aspects of such representations. Shorn of human agency or responsibility, war apparently threatens to become technologically unstoppable, the remorseless 'perfect abattoir' of the industrial age. War Machine explores the enduring historical fascination with - and recoil from -brutal mechanical slaughter, and the modern aquiescence in, and enthusiasm for (in Rilke's phrase), 'these days of monstrously accelerated dying'.