One hundred years ago, French troops fired tear gas grenades into German trenches. Designed to force people out from behind barricades and trenches, tear gas causes burning of the eyes and skin, tearing, and gagging. Chemical weapons are now banned from war zones. But today, tear gas has become the most commonly used form of “less-lethal” police force. In 2011, the year that protests exploded from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, tear gas sales tripled. Most tear gas is produced in the United States, and many images of protestors in Tahrir Square showed tear gas canisters with “Made in USA” printed on them, while Britain continues to sell tear gas to countries on its own human rights blacklist.
An engrossing century-spanning narrative, Tear Gas is the first history of this weapon, and takes us from military labs and chemical weapons expos to union assemblies and protest camps, drawing on declassified reports and witness testimonies to show how policing with poison came to be.
“A vivid history of the time and also - as good radical accounts should be - a source of encouragement to those fighting all too similar battles today”
“It is this violence that comes through most clearly in Tear Gas—the psychological factors, the sheer unfairness and dismissiveness that accompany the use of chemicals against demonstrators and ordinary citizens, all come through brilliantly. Tear gas not only affects protesters and bystanders indiscriminately; it relegates the status of a dissenting citizen to that of a mere irritant.”
“There is something epic about Anna Feigenbaum’s Tear Gas, its scope and intensity, the way that chemistry — the orienting science of the industrial revolution — provides the material to manage that revolution’s epic collapse . . . There is crucial knowledge to be found here.”
“A passionately argued history of the development and gradual spread of tear gas around the world . . . a clarion call for reassessment of the widespread availability and misuse of tear gas.”
“Fascinating, deeply researched and lucid . . . We have become so accustomed to the use of tear gas during protests that it comes as a shock when we realize, in reading this book, how little we know about the longer-term effects of what is in some ways a chemical weapon.”
“Read Feigenbaum’s book. It’s timely, well-written, and very important.”
“Feigenbaum integrates science and history with a compelling discussion of tear gas’s history and its present role in the civilian arena.”