Stupid Wars is both historically interesting, telling about wars you might never have heard of otherwise, and very, very funny, it chronicles full wars or conspiracies that were so stupid that when presented to be funny, you just have to laugh out loud. If you want to be entertained by history than this is the book to read, it’s so good that, not only have I read it more times than I bothered counting, I’ve also gone back and re-read certain parts of it. Probably my favourite chapter is “the War of The Pacific 1879”, the reason why it has such a generic name is because the historians tacked it on afterwards, everyone at the time called it ‘the Birdshit war” or in polite company “the Guano War”. Allow me to provide some background up until the beginning of the nineteenth century birdshits true value was not recognized birds pooped, end of story. It was soon discovered that it contained valuable nitrates that could be used in fertilizers, or explosives. On the western costs of Peru, Chile, and formerly Bolivia where the deserts run up against the coasts and the current carries plankton against the shore for the fish to feed on and for the birds to feed on the fish. Once the birds travel inland they defecate prodigiously, mountainously. In this driest part of the world decades pass without rain, with nothing to wash it away the shit grows into cliffs along the coasts hundreds of feet tall. The leadership of the countries started seeing birdshit as the new gold and drew up treaties to determine who would own what shit and when it could be taxed. An escalating series of mining incidents culminated in the Bolivians attempting to tax the Chileans so as to repair hurricane damage when the Chileans refused their mining equipment was confiscated, the Chilean military took it back, things escalated from there and the Peruvians were dragged into it through a secret treaty. The Peruvians lost their navy, the Bolivians lost their entire country and were given back the all except the coast in exchange for dropping out of the war and the Peruvians continued the war long after their defeat was inevitable and even after they’d actually lost.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes history or military history or humor It’s all around amazing.